The dismissal notice stated that the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed without prejudice but provided no further details about why the case was dropped.
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A proposed class action lawsuit filed this week claims Skittles candies are “unfit for human consumption” in that they contain titanium dioxide (TiO2), a known toxin.
The 25-page lawsuit out of California alleges that defendant Mars Inc. has known for years that titanium dioxide is unsafe for use as a food additive due to “genotoxicity concerns”—i.e., that the substance, which is also used in paints, coatings, adhesives, plastics, printing inks and roofing materials, can enter cells and damage DNA.
In fact, the case says, Mars was required to comply with a ban of titanium dioxide as a food additive in Europe and publicly committed to removing the substance from its Skittles products back in 2016.
Despite these representations, however, Mars has allegedly continued to sell Skittles products—including the Original, Wild Berry, Sour, Tropical and Smoothies varieties—with TiO2 as an additive and hasn’t warned buyers of the health risks they face by consuming the toxic ingredient, the lawsuit alleges. Per the case, a reasonable consumer looking to buy Skittles wouldn’t expect that the candy is unsafe for consumption.
“However, the Products are not safe and pose a significant health risk to unsuspecting consumers,” the complaint attests. “Yet, neither before nor at the time of purchase does Defendant notify consumers like Plaintiff that the Products are unsafe to consumers, contain heightened levels of titanium dioxide, and should otherwise be approached with caution.”
The lawsuit claims that because of Mars’ failure to disclose the health risks associated with consuming titanium dioxide, consumers have overpaid for the Skittles products.
What health concerns are associated with titanium dioxide?
According to the case, titanium dioxide has been linked to “grave health concerns” due to its ability to pass through biological membranes and enter cells.
Per the suit, research has shown that TiO2 can cause damage to a person’s DNA, chromosomes, organs and brain, as well as cause inflammation, genital malformations, liver and kidney lesions, and cell necrosis. TiO2 can also build up in the body’s intestinal tract and be absorbed into innate immune system cells, where the particles “will remain without being degraded or dissolved,” the complaint relays.
According to the case, scientific findings regarding the apparent health risks associated with consuming TiO2 caused France to ban “all foods containing titanium dioxide” in 2019 and the European Union to ban the substance for use as a food additive the following year.
Nevertheless, Mars—who the case points out has offices in a handful of EU countries—has continued selling Skittles products containing TiO2 as an additive in the United States, even after publicly announcing its intention to phase out the use of titanium dioxide from its confectionary products in February 2016, the lawsuit alleges.
“Despite its February 2016 commitment to U.S. consumers and its apparent compliance with the laws of the European Commission, Defendant has endangered U.S. consumers, exposing them to TiO2, which Defendant knows carries significant health concerns,” the complaint reads. “It also failed to tell consumers that contrary to its earlier representations, it did not remove TiO2.”
Lawsuit claims Mars chose titanium dioxide over other safer options
The lawsuit alleges that Mars uses titanium dioxide in its Skittles products to achieve their recognizable bright coloring, which the company refers to as “the rainbow” in advertising.
According to the case, however, Mars has other options for maintaining the colors in its candies, as evidenced by the fact that many of the company’s competitors produce brightly colored candy without relying on TiO2. For example, the makers of Swedish Fish, Black Forest Gummy Bears, Sour Patch Kids and Nerds achieve an assortment of vivid colors in their products without using the toxin, the suit says.
Even Mars itself produces brightly colored candies such as M&Ms without using TiO2, according to the suit.
The case claims that Mars has, instead of removing the additive from its Skittles products, relied on the ingredients list to disclose the presence of TiO2 “in miniscule print,” which the suit notes is even more difficult to read given the lack of contrast between the font and packaging colors.
Even so, the company has failed to warn buyers about the risks they face to their health if they consume Skittles, the lawsuit argues.
Who does the lawsuit aim to cover?
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone in the United States who, within the applicable statute of limitations period and up to the date of final judgment in the case, purchased any of the Skittles products mentioned on this page.
How do I join the lawsuit?
There’s usually nothing you need to do to join a proposed class action lawsuit when it’s first filed. If the suit moves forward and settles, that’s when those covered by the case, called class members, would have an opportunity to file a claim for their share of the settlement.
For now, one of the best things you can do is to stay informed. You can check back to this page for any notable updates, or simply sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter to get class action news and settlement information sent straight to your inbox.