“Unfit for human consumption”: 5 things to know about the Skittles lawsuit over titanium dioxide

It depends on whom you ask. In 2016, Mars announced in a press release — which has since been removed or made unavailable from its website — that it was committed to removing potentially poisonous nanoparticles of titanium dioxide from its food products over the next five years. 

In response at the time, Jaydee Hanson, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, wrote, “We are pleased to see that Mars has taken a positive step toward eliminating toxic, unnecessary nanomaterials from its line of food products. We urge the company to speed up the removal of these additives, especially given the grave health concerns associated with titanium dioxide and other nanoparticles.” 

Hanson continued, “Studies have shown that the human health risks associated with ingesting nanoparticles of many common food additives far outweigh any utility for producers. There are plenty of non-toxic alternatives available and we urge MARS and others to commit to not using any engineered nanomaterials in human and animal food products.”

In 2019, France banned titanium dioxide in food products, prompting the formula for Skittles sold in that market to be changed. Earlier this year, the European Union barred the use of titanium dioxide as a food additive. 

“Taking into account all available scientific studies and data, the panel concluded that titanium dioxide can no longer be considered safe as a food additive,” Magged Younes, the chair of the European Union Food Safety Authority’s expert Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings, said in a May 2021 news release. “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”. 

The U.S., however, has yet to follow suit. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved of the use of titanium dioxide since 1966 as long as it doesn’t exceed 1% by weight in foods. Its use as a food colorant was upheld by the FDA as recently as March 29.


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