An outrage emerged earlier this month when it was discovered that the Mars Corporation was being sued for using titanium dioxide in Skittles. What in the world is titanium dioxide, fans of the sweets were left to wonder. Why was the substance recently prohibited in Europe? Even so, are Skittles safe to eat?
To help you uncover the truths, let’s dive right in!
Due to "heightened amounts" of titanium dioxide in Skittles, San Leandro, California resident Jenile Thames is suing the Mars Corporation. Skittles "are not safe and pose a significant health risk to unsuspecting consumers," according to the complaint made on behalf of Thames. Additionally, Europe has already outlawed titanium dioxide as a food ingredient.
The additive, which is used as a coloring agent, is allowed to use in food in the United States. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the majority of foods are permitted to include it, but only up to 1% of the weight of the item. Mars claims it has not broken any laws. A Mars spokesman told The Washington Post, “while we do not comment on pending litigation, our use of titanium dioxide complies with FDA regulations." However, the class-action lawsuit contends that the business committed fraud by omission and other violations of California law by failing to alert consumers to the potential risks of titanium dioxide. On Thursday, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California filed on behalf of San Leandro resident Jenile Thames and other candy customers.
Mars stated in 2016 that it will phase out artificial coloring from its goods over the next five years. Later, it was made clear that titanium dioxide was one of the colorants that would be phased out. The complaint asserts that "Defendant has flouted its own promise to consumers." "More than six years later, Defendant continues to sell the Products with [titanium dioxide] unbeknownst to reasonable consumers who purchase the Products." the complaint reads.
In August, the European Union's prohibition on using titanium dioxide as a food ingredient will fully take effect. The European regulators highlighted concerns that a buildup of titanium dioxide particles might result in genotoxicity, which is the capacity of a material to harm DNA, perhaps resulting in cancer. However, the U.K. did not reach the same decision and continues to allow it.
Then What Is This Titanium Dioxide?
In thousands of food items spanning many different categories, titanium dioxide, a chemical compound made from a naturally occurring mineral, is used as a color additive, an anti-caking agent, and a whitener, among other things. According to Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization focusing on consumer health and safety, these include numerous chewing gums, baked goods, sandwich spreads, salad dressings, and dairy products like cottage cheese, ice cream, and coffee creamers.
A significant portion of the food products that include chemicals is also sweet snacks and desserts. It was found in "thousands of children's sweets," including Starburst and other candy targeted at children, according to a recent E.W.G. assessment.
Other non-food products containing titanium dioxide include several medicines, sunscreens, cosmetics, paints, and plastics.
And if you are thinking about whether it is safe to eat or not, it really depends on whom you are asking.
As long as it does not account for more than 1% of the weight of the meal, the Food and Drug Administration has accepted the use of titanium dioxide in human food as safe since 1966.
Nevertheless, research released since the 1960s has questioned its safety despite its extensive usage. For instance, research from the 1960s was reexamined in 2015, and it was discovered that titanium dioxide does not simply flow through the body, contrary to what was initially thought. The additive might, instead, build in some organs and be absorbed into the circulation through the intestines, potentially harming the spleen, liver, and kidneys.
But according to Pierre Herckes, a chemistry professor at Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences and co-author of a 2014 paper on titanium dioxide, it is difficult to tell if consumers should limit their usage of the additive based on the existing, conflicting evidence. He answered, "I don’t have a clear yes or no"
However, Dr Herckes said that there should be some concern because youngsters tend to consume the majority of sweets and candies, which have some of the greatest quantities of titanium dioxide due to their smaller bodies and larger relative dosages. "If there is damage to the DNA, classical carcinogenicity, that is cumulative over time. When you are exposed to that in the younger years, it can hit you in later years," he stated.
With all this being said, the moral of today’s story is that we need to look more closely at what we put into our bodies at the end of the day because when all of that is eaten, all we got there is just ourselves.
"A Lawsuit Claims Skittles Are Unfit For Consumption. Experts Weigh In.". Nytimes.Com, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/26/well/eat/skittles-lawsuit-titanium-dioxide.html.
"Everything You Need To Know About The Skittles Lawsuit And Titanium Dioxide". Delish, 2022, https://www.delish.com/food-news/a40707581/skittles-lawsuit-titanium-dioxide/.
Heil, Emily. "Skittles Lawsuit Claims ‘Toxin’ Makes Them ‘Unfit For Human Consumption’". The Washington Post, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2022/07/18/skittles-lawsuit-toxin-titanium-dioxide/.