Earlier this month, news of a lawsuit against the Mars Corporation over their use of titanium dioxide in Skittles caused a bit of a frenzy. Fans of the candy were left with questions: What in the world is titanium dioxide? Why was the substance recently banned in Europe? Is it even safe to eat Skittles?
If you have unanswered questions, here is everything you need to know about the Skittles lawsuit, titanium dioxide, and foods that contain the substance.
Why Is Skittles Being Sued?
The Mars Corporation is being sued by San Leandro, California, resident Jenile Thames due to “heightened levels” of titanium dioxide in Skittles. The complaint filed on behalf of Thames says that Skittles “are not safe and pose a significant health risk to unsuspecting consumers.” Furthermore, titanium dioxide has already been banned as a food additive in Europe.
What Is Titanium Dioxide?
According to a bulletin from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, titanium dioxide is “an insoluble white powder” that “is used extensively in many commercial products, including paint, cosmetics, plastics, paper, and food, as an anti-caking or whitening agent.” Described by ChemicalSafetyFacts.org as “a decorative aid in some foods,” titanium dioxide can be used to enhance the longevity of products. With Skittles, titanium dioxide is used to help produce those rainbow-like hues.
Here’s What The Experts Say
The most pressing question people have regarding the lawsuit is whether Skittles are safe to eat. 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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not banned the substance and has deemed it safe to use for coloring foods if proper restrictions are followed. Among the restrictions listed by the organization are:
- The quantity of titanium dioxide does not exceed 1 percent by weight of the food.
- It may not be used to color foods for which standards of identity have been promulgated under section 401 of the act unless added color is authorized by such standards.
Additional restrictions from the FDA mention “Labeling” and “Exemption from certification.”
Foods That Contain Titanium Dioxide
Skittles is not the only candy containing titanium dioxide. USA Today reports that Nice! brand mints, Trolli sour gummies, and Ring Pops are made with it. And the substance isn’t limited to candy. It can be found in some dairy products and even plant-based products, like Lucerne cottage cheese, Beyond Meat chicken plant-based tenders, Great Value ice cream, and Chips Ahoy! cookies.
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