Skittles have coloring agent dangerous to humans, lawsuit says (1)

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Skittles maker Mars Inc. is misleading consumers by not disclosing that the brightly colored candies contain titanium dioxide, a toxic coloring ingredient, unfit for human consumption, according to a proposed class action lawsuit filed in California federal court .

Titanium dioxide – which is also used in paints, coatings, adhesives, plastics, printing inks and roofing materials – can cause DNA and chromosome damage, organ damage, inflammation and other health effects, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. District. Court for the Northern District of California.

Mars was aware of the mineral’s health risks and publicly pledged in 2016 to phase out titanium dioxide, according to the lawsuit.

However, the company hid the risk, framing the planned phase-out as a response to consumer demand for more natural ingredients in food products, according to consumer Jenile Thames. Mars continues to sell Skittles with titanium dioxide, unbeknownst to reasonable consumers who buy them, he claims.

France banned titanium dioxide in 2019, according to the lawsuit.

In May 2021, the European Food Safety Authority determined that titanium dioxide could not be considered safe for consumption.

As a result, the European Commission announced that it would ban titanium dioxide in food, the lawsuit states. Mars has offices in European countries and will be subject to the EC ban, according to the lawsuit.

A six-month phase-out period in the EU began on February 7. A total ban will apply on August 7, according to a publication from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

In the United States, Mars sells the candies and does not inform consumers of the implications of ingesting the toxin, according to Thames. Instead, Mars relies on the ingredient list that is provided in lowercase print on the back of packages, he said.

Other colorful candies, including Mars’ M&Ms, don’t rely on titanium dioxide for their appearance, Thames says.

Causes of action: California Unfair Competition Law; California Consumer Legal Remedies Act; California False Advertising Law; breach of implied warranty; fraud; unjust enrichment.

Relief: Compensatory, statutory and punitive damages; injunction; attorney’s fees and costs.

Potential class size: Unknown number of people in the National class and the California subclass.

Answer: A Mars spokesperson said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Lawyers: Bursor & Fisher represents Thames and the proposed class.

The case is Thames v. Mars, Inc., ND Cal., No. 4:22-cv-04145, complaint dated 07/14/22.

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