skittles, candy, titanium

Most people understand that too many sweet treats are bad for our health, but few people expect titanium dioxide to be present in the food we eat.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what you will be consuming if you are a fan of the famous, rainbow-coloured skittles. 

A lawsuit filed in California alleges that Mars, the manufacturer of the sweets, deliberately concealed the fact that the chemical is present in the sweets.

The court case was brought forward by Jenile Thames, a resident of San Leandro, who contends that Mars has long known about the alleged risks associated with this chemical. For example, in February 2016, Mars announced that it would phase out titanium dioxide. 

Thames alleges that Mars still sells candy that contains titanium dioxide as an additive in the US and added that the food giant is “failing to inform consumers of the implications of consuming the toxin”.

While the lawsuit notes that the European Union is banning titanium dioxide as a food additive, it is still deemed to be safe for consumption in the United States.

The European Food Safety Authority described titanium dioxide as “a pigment commonly used to provide a cloudy effect and white background colour”  and is typically used in candy and baking. However, in 2021,  the authority announced that “titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive”.

In a statement, it said: “A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that we could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles. After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however, they can accumulate in the body.”

While some argue that the evidence for the toxicity of titanium dioxide is inconclusive, there are some peer-reviewed studies that state that the chemical can cause damage to human body cells, DNA damage, and inflammation. 

There is also evidence that titanium dioxide can impair the immune system and the nervous system. According to the study, ingesting the chemical can also disrupt the heart, respiratory system and cause digestive problems. 

That’s a pretty big price to pay for eating a packet of sweets. 

While it is important to note that the study states that damage to the body is dose-dependent, it does seem to suggest that the more you consume, the more problems it can cause.

A Mars spokesperson said in an email that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

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