California Man Sues Mars Over Potentially Harmful Skittles Ingredient

A man in California has claimed that Skittles candy contains a “known toxin” that should make it “unfit for human consumption.” And for this reason, the citizen is suing the maker of the candy, Mars.

The “known toxin” in question is titanium dioxide, which is actually just one of several thousand legal food additives cleared for use in the United States.  In his lawsuit, the California man, Jenile Thames, says that Mars has not adequately warned consumers regarding the potential dangers of this particular ingredient; an ingredient whose only purpose is to add color to Skittles candies.

The Center for Food Safety makes sure to note that in 2016 Mars promised they would phase out their use of titanium dioxide in their products steadily over the next five years.

A Mars spokesperson has responded with, “While we do not comment on pending litigation, our use of titanium dioxide complies with FDA regulations.”

Now, titanium dioxide seems innocuous as a white, powdery mineral that is commonly used in consumer products.  In fact, you can find titanium dioxide in cosmetics, toothpaste, paint, plasticss, and sunscreen.  In regards to food, however, it is most common to find titanium dioxide in candies, for one, but also things like jarred sauces, pastries, chewing gum, chocolates, and other confectionaries.

Most important, perhaps, titanium dioxide has been used to white certain popular foods for decades.

The lawsuit has some legs, as a European Food Safety Authority declared titanium dioxide can no longer be considered a safe food additive, in a 2021 report.  In the report, the agency described that they could not simply rule out “genotoxicity” (DNA damage) from consumption of small amounts of the substance over time; while the aborption rate is low, it is not easy to test accumulation.

An FDA spokesperson responded saying “the available safety studies do not demonstrate safety concerns connected to the use of titanium dioxide as a color additive.”