Candy company Mars Inc. was sued Thursday for allegedly selling toxic goodies to customers that include titanium dioxide, a colorant, in its ingredients.
The company allegedly pledged years ago to remove the food additive TiO2, which is being banned in the European Union. The colorant, though, still remains as an ingredient.
In the proposed class action suit, filed in Oakland, California, Jenile Thames claims Mars is endangering unsuspecting Skittles consumers.
TiO2 is currently not banned in the United States, and the ingredient is listed on packs of the treat. But the suit claims that’s not sufficient, since the packaging is red and the ingredients listed in black are hard to read.
“A reasonable consumer would expect that [Skittles] can be safely purchased and consumed as marketed and sold,” the complaint said, according to Reuters. “However, the products are not safe.”
Jaydee Hanson, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Food Safety, announced in a statement in 2016 that Mars Inc. was moving to phase out toxins in their products.
“We are pleased to see that MARS has taken a positive step toward eliminating toxic, unnecessary nanomaterials from its line of food products,” Hanson said. “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.”
“Studies have shown that the human health risks associated with ingesting nanoparticles of many common food additives far outweigh any utility for producers,” the statement continued. “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.”
The link to the Mars Inc. statement on the Center for Food Safety site announcing the apparent changes now redirects to a Mars.com page that says, “The page you’re looking for have been removed or is temporarily unavailable.”
Titanium dioxide was officially banned in the EU on February 7, though companies have a six-month transition period to remove the additive from its goods.
TiO2 can induce damage to one’s DNA, as well as cause brain and organ damage and cause lesions in the liver and kidneys, the lawsuit charges, Reuters reported, adding that the additive is often found in paint, adhesives, plastics, and some roofing materials.
Thames is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.