Titanium dioxide is permitted in foods within a certain limit. The lawsuit claims Skittles packages don’t appropriately warn consumers about its long-term dangers to their health.
We always knew that Skittles candy is... not the healthiest. As with any “fun” food, most people believe that if consumed in moderation, it’s no worse than your other sweet treat favorites.
But that might not be true.
Jenile Thames of California is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Skittles maker Mars, claiming that titanium dioxide contained in the candy makes it “unfit for human consumption.”
Health risks associated with Skittles
Titanium dioxide is a coloring agent and is permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in most foods. The FDA allows the chemical as long as it is no more than 1% of the weight of the food. Mars has responded to the lawsuit by saying its titanium dioxide use complies with FDA regulations. Titanium dioxide is also used in other candy, gum, chocolate and coffee creamers.
A study by BioMed Central indicated that the toxin (which is also found in paint, sunscreen, plastics and cosmetics) can cause chromosomal damage, inflammation, cell necrosis and dysfunction when ingested.
Titanium dioxide will be banned as a food additive in Europe, beginning in August 2022. The European Commission based its decision on concerns that accumulated particles can cause genotoxicity, which is the ability to damage DNA and cause cancer. The U.K. continues to permit the additive because it did not come to the same conclusion about its risks.
The California lawsuit specifies that other candies that include Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish and Nerds do not contain titanium dioxide, even though they are bright colors.
Legal claim against Mars for failure to warn
The lawsuit claims that the company’s failure to warn consumers about the dangers of titanium dioxide is negligent as a fraud of omission. The lawsuit also says that the company planned to phase out the use of artificial coloring over five years beginning in 2016. However, Skittles continue to contain the chemical.
The plaintiff also claims that consumers rely on ingredient lists on the package that have “minuscule” print and a lack of contrast between the color of the package and the color of the print, which presents an unreasonable challenge for the consumer to determine whether the ingredients are safe for their own level of risk tolerance. He says consumers aren’t made aware that high levels of titanium dioxide are harmful and can cause long-term health effects.
The lawsuit says the defendant was aware of the dangers of titanium dioxide because it committed to ceasing its use several years ago, but it misled consumers by quietly continuing to use the substance.
Class action plaintiffs seek damages for purchased Skittles
In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff(s) must prove that they suffered an injury in order to make a claim for damages. The damages are intended to pay for the plaintiff’s costs that were related to the injury.
Usually, the damages pay for items like medical treatment, lost property, lost wages or other expenses that the plaintiff wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for the defendant’s negligence that caused the injury.
In this instance, the plaintiff is not claiming he can prove his own injury because of eating Skittles. Rather, the lawsuit says:
“Plaintiff and the Class were injured by the full purchase price of the Products because the Products are worthless, as they are marketed as safe for human consumption when they are not in fact safe for human consumption.”
The “class” in a class action lawsuit refers to any person who was harmed by the subject of the lawsuit. For instance, if 1,000 people were injured because they used a microwave that was defective and caused burns to users, those people would be part of the class of eligible plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the microwave manufacturer.
It would be difficult—if not impossible—to include each member of the class in the Mars lawsuit. The class is defined as “all U.S. Skittles customers.”
The lawsuit seeks compensatory, statutory and punitive damages. It also seeks injunctive relief, which means that Mars must add full disclosure of the titanium dioxide to Skittles packaging moving forward.
Types of personal injury compensation
What are the different types of compensation available in a personal injury lawsuit, and what proof do you need to recover your damages?
Are you eligible to join the Skittles class action lawsuit?
Maybe, if you’ve purchased Skittles. If you bought them at the corner gas station and paid with cash, your purchase history might be hard to prove, though.
It’s worth noting that filing a lawsuit doesn’t guarantee—or even suggest—success. There are some instances when a lawsuit is newsworthy simply because it affects a lot of people or because it seems so unlikely or unusual. It will likely be months or even years before this lawsuit reaches resolution unless the court dismisses the claim.
However, if you believe you’ve been harmed or misled by Mars and would not have purchased Skittles if you’d known about dangers related to their containing titanium dioxide, you can contact a personal injury attorney for guidance on how to proceed in joining the class action lawsuit.