A lawsuit against Mars Inc. alleges that Skittles contain a known toxin called titanium dioxide that renders them unsafe for consumption.
In a lawsuit filed in northern California court, Jenile Thames alleged that consuming Skittles puts people “at heightened risk of a host of health effects for which they were unaware stemming from genotoxicity – the ability of a chemical substance to change DNA”.
The lawsuit is seeking class-action status and contends that Mars has long known about risks associated with titanium dioxide but continues to use it in their candy.
Thames seeks damages for fraud and violations of California consumer protection laws.
The company publicly pledged in February 2016 that the toxin, which has been typically used to enhance colour and appearance of foods, would be phased out of Skittles and other food products.
The lawsuit notes that in 2019, after France banned titanium dioxide, court papers state that Mars said it would comply with the law.
Last year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced titanium dioxide “could not be considered safe for consumption”.
Following the EFSA’s assessment, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) announced they are reviewing the safety of titanium dioxide as a food additive.
Thames also argues that Mars does not properly warn consumers of the health risks or notify them that Skittles “should otherwise be approached with caution”.
According to the lawsuit, in the US the company continues to use titanium dioxide in Skittles while failing “to inform consumers of the implications of consuming the toxin”.
“Instead, Defendant relies on the ingredient list which is provided in minuscule print on the back of the Products, the reading of which is made even more challenging by the lack of contrast in color between the font and packaging, as set out below in a manner in which consumers would normally view the product in the store,” court papers state.
Mars has said the company will not comment on pending litigation.