It seems American sweets can’t catch a break. First, it was sprinkles, banned by regulatory bodies in the UK as a non-legal source of the red dye E127. Now, a home-grown lawsuit is coming after the quite possibly cheerfullest candy the good old U.S. of A. has ever produced, Skittles. California resident Jenile Thames is suing the Mars Corporation over what the suit alleges are “heightened levels” of titanium dioxide in Skittles that are “not safe and pose a significant health risk to unsuspecting consumers.” Titanium dioxide is used extensively as an anti-caking and whitening agent in the paint, paper, plastic, cosmetic, and (in the U.S. at least) food industries. It’s been banned as a food additive in Europe, but it’s still used in American-made Skittles to make their rainbow colours really pop.
“‘Based on Defendant’s omissions, a reasonable consumer would expect that the Product can be safely purchased and consumed as marketed and sold,’ the complaint reads. ‘However, the Products are not safe and pose a significant health risk to unsuspecting consumers. Yet, neither before nor at the time of purchase does Defendant notify consumers like (Thames) that the Products are unsafe to consumers, contain heightened levels of titanium dioxide, and should otherwise be approached with caution.’
In 2021, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) halted the use of titanium dioxide when it announced that the substance ‘can no longer be considered safe as a food additive.’ And years before the EFSA made that announcement, Mars shared its plans to gradually remove titanium dioxide from its products. Although Mars’ plans were revealed in 2016, the company has yet to remove titanium dioxide from Skittles and other products.”
Mars has fired right back in a statement, saying that the titanium dioxide levels in Skittles remain below the FDA “danger” threshold – essentially passing the hot potato to the FDA. I have no idea how this suit is going to resolve, but I wonder if it might force a European-style pivot on the American FDA? Until then, I thank my stars it’s been years since I’ve tasted a Skittle. Apparently, I need all the power my system’s got to process those sprinkles…