Skittles Candy Maker Sued Due To Presence Of Additive Deemed “Toxic”

Some may think of Skittles candy and start salivating, reminiscing over their favorite fruity flavor. Or perhaps it’s the not-too-distant memory of grabbing a handful and eating them all at once. Others, especially those who’ve been eating them for years, may reminisce over chomping on this treat and breaking a tooth, or losing a dental filling during some too-vigorous bites. Salivation and dental issues aside, others have engaged in a class action lawsuit against the Mars Corporation, maker of Skittles, claiming that these colorful pellets contain unsafe levels of a potentially harmful food additive. The substance at issue is titanium dioxide, or TiO2, a frequently used chemical in foods, paints, and cosmetics. The material is not new, as it has been used as an additive since the late 1940’s, with increased use over recent decades. This powdery substance, known in Europe as E171, was banned as a food additive in Europe earlier this year. It is typically used as a bleaching agent, a shining agent, and an agent to prevent caking and clumping in products including candies and make-up. Back in 2016, the Mars Corporation announced that they would be working towards eliminating this substance from their candy products by 2021. Well into 2022, the candies remain unchanged with regard to this additive. According to USA Today “a lawsuit seeking class-action status filed in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Thursday, attorneys for San Leandro resident Jenile Thames said that Skittles were unsafe for consumers because they contain ”heightened levels” of titanium dioxide.” Thames further describes these candies as “unfit for human consumption.”The prime reason for the concern for titanium dioxide as a potentially harmful substance stems from the fact that this is a nanoparticle (as opposed to larger microparticles). Nanoparticles are measured in nanometers, or one billionth of a meter. These are so tiny that they can pass through channels between the blood and the brain, via ingestion, or via the skin. However, this fact does not, in and of itself, make a substance harmful or toxic. Nanotechnology in medicine and therapeutics has enabled targeted treatments against cancers and immune disorders. The safety profile of particular nanoparticles, notably titanium dioxide, needs to be further clarified, especially when it comes to safety of use to the consumer. In May 2021, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published their review of the safety of titanium dioxide as a food additive. They assessed issues including particle size, amount consumed, and potential effects on the human body including reproduction, organ toxicity, DNA synthesis, neurotoxicity, immune modulation, inflammation and carcinogenicity. They reviewed human, mouse, and rat studies extensively, all of which had been carried out in recent years.

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