A lawsuit filed in California alleges that Skittles candy is not fit for human consumption due to its ingredients of titanium dioxide and we have to admit, we're watching to see where this goes as it's possibly the first in a line to clean up foods in the U.S. that are permitted to have ingredients banned in many other first-world countries.

A man from California is suing Mars, Inc., the maker of Skittles candy, because it includes the ingredient titanium dioxide and claims it is "unfit for human consumption". The additive IS allowed under U.S. Food and Drug Regulations but has been banned in Europe and a handful of other countries due to its possible cancer risks.

The titanium dioxide is used as a coloring agent, but the lawsuit alleges, "No reasonable consumer would expect that the products marketed as safe for human consumption would pose a risk to their health, safety, and well-being, or that it would contain [titanium dioxide], which is linked to harmful health effects in humans."

Mars, Inc. acknowledges the additive's use but says it is within U.S. FDA guideline limits. As long as it makes up less than 1% of a food's weight, titanium dioxide is allowed by the FDA. It's a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from earth. It's processed and refined and used in a variety of food products like chewing gum, pastries and chocolates.

Interestingly, it's also often a main ingredient in physical barrier sunscreens, paint, plastic and paper production. Yes, it's that same stuff you find in clean sunscreens.

In May of 2021, the European Food Safety Authority deemed it unsafe as a food additive because of concerns about genotoxicity--potential damage to DNA. There's some evidence that suggests inhaled fine particles can build up in cells over time and increase cancer risks (why aerosol titanium dioxide sunscreens are less desirable than lotions), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers it to be possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Most proponents of the use of it in food products claim that there's simply not enough present to pose a threat.

In 2016, Mars, Inc. issued a statement saying it was phasing out some artificial colors, including titanium dioxide. The lawsuit encourages Mars, Inc., to use non-toxic alternatives, and alleges that the company didn't use due diligence in telling consumers about potential risks. It also claims the packaging makes reading ingredients difficult in person, and the plaintiff in the suit, Jenile Thames, said he wouldn't have purchased Skittles if he easily could tell titanium dioxide was an ingredient. The lawsuit also includes other candies that are brightly colored--Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids and Black Forest Gummy Bears--that don't include the additive and show it obviously isn't necessary.

The lawsuit alleges the company did not adequately inform consumers of the potential risk of titanium dioxide and that the ingredients list is difficult to read because of a lack of color contrast on the packaging. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff, Jenile Thames, said he would not have purchased the Skittles if he knew they contained titanium dioxide.

The complaint also alleges that titanium dioxide isn't necessary to produce brightly-colored candy, since comparable products like Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, and Black Forest Gummy Bears don't include the chemical. (They do include several dyes like Red 40, Blue 5 and Yellow 1 & 6).

Have we mentioned how much we love YumEarth's Giggles, by the way?

We're definitely watching to see how this one goes.