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Skittles Lawsuit: Questions Raised Over Titanium Dioxide Use

Skittles Lawsuit: Questions Raised Over Titanium Dioxide Use

The lawsuit claims Skittles are "unfit for human consumption" because they contain food additive titanium dioxide

Confectionery manufacturer Mars Inc, who makes Skittles, is being sued by a consumer who claims the sweets are “unfit for human consumption”.

It all comes down to a food additive called titanium dioxide, also known as E171, which is banned in the EU but included in Skittles in the US, and is one of the reasons behind the sweets’ bright rainbow hue.

The lawsuit has left some Skittles fans wondering if their favourite sweets are safe and what on earth titanium dioxide even is. Read on for everything you need to know about the Skittles lawsuit and titanium dioxide…

Why is Skittles owner Mars Inc being sued?

Consumer Jenile Thames alleges in a lawsuit that the Skittles contain “heightened levels” of the colour additive titanium dioxide (TiO2).

They claim that Mars is still using the ingredient in the US despite saying it would phase it out in 2016 and that the company hasn’t informed “consumers of the implications of consuming the toxin”.

Thames’ lawsuit says that they wouldn’t have bought Skittles if they had known it contained titanium dioxide. Although the substance is listed on the packaging, Thames also argues that the design of the packaging makes it difficult to read the ingredients.

What is titanium dioxide?

Titanium dioxide is an additive that is sometimes added to enhance the colours of foods. It is a “white solid inorganic substance” and is used in a range of items including sun cream, makeup, paint, plastics, food and more, according to the American Chemistry Council.

Titanium dioxide was banned in 2021 by the European Food Safety Authority because it could "no longer be considered safe as a food additive." The substance is usually only present in foods in small quantities but questions over what level of the substance are safe for human consumption, if any, led to the organisation ruling that it shouldn’t be used in food in the European Union.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not banned the substance and has deemed it safe to use for coloring foods, as long as it meets certain restrictions such as the titanium dioxide cannot exceed 1 percent by weight of the food.

In response to the lawsuit, a Mars spokesperson has said: “While we do not comment on pending litigation, our use of titanium dioxide complies with FDA regulations”.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Food And Drink, Business