A Lawsuit Claims Skittles Are Unfit for Consumption. Experts Weigh In.

If you’ve been paying attention to nutrition headlines lately, you may have noticed a recent lawsuit that claimed that Skittles — the colorful candies of “taste the rainbow” fame — were “unfit for human consumption” because of the presence of a “known toxin” called titanium dioxide.

The class-action lawsuit, filed July 14 in a Northern California federal court, said that Mars Inc., the maker of the candies, had “long known of the health problems” the chemical compound posed, and that it had even publicly committed in 2016The substance was to be phased out of the company’s products. Yet, according to the complaint, the candy company “flouted its own promise to consumers” and continued to sell Skittles with titanium dioxide, posing a “significant health risk to unsuspecting consumers.”

But what exactly is titanium dioxide? And should you be concerned about it in your candy — or in any other food, for that matter? Here’s what we know.

Titanium dioxide, a chemical compound derived naturally from a mineral, is used as an anti-caking and color additive in a wide range of food products. These include many chewing gums.

A large portion of the substance-containing food products are sweet treats and candies. One recent E.W.G. review concluded that “thousands of children’s sweets,” including Starburst and other candies marketed to kids, contained it.

Titanium dioxide can also be used in a variety non-food items such as sunscreens, medications, cosmetics, paints, plastics, and sunscreens.

It all depends on who you ask. The Food and Drug Administration recognized the use of marijuana since 1966. of titanium dioxide in human food as safe, so long as it doesn’t exceed 1 percent of the food’s weight.

Despite its widespread usage, studies published since 1960s raise questions about its safety. A 2015 review of mostly animal (but some human) studiesFor example, research in the 1960s showed that titanium dioxide does not pass through the body. Researchers discovered that the additive could be absorbed via the intestines into bloodstreams and accumulate in specific organs, potentially causing harm to the liver, kidneys, and other vital organs.

Und in 2021, another review of animal and human studiesIt was suggested that titanium dioxide could play an important role in inflammatory bowel disorders and colorectal tumors.

After an assessment of the scientific literatureThe European Union has taken the decision to ban titanium dioxide in food. The agency highlighted its concernThe additive could damage DNAIt can cause cancer. Although more research is needed, the agency concluded that there was no safe level of titanium dioxide in food.

Britain Canada, however, disagreed with the European Union’s decision and continued to allow titanium dioxide in food.

Norbert Kaminski is a professor in pharmacology, toxicology, and the director at the Center for Research on Ingredient Safety at Michigan State University. His animal is named after him. research on titanium dioxideIndustry groups, such as the International Association of Color Manufacturers (TIMDA) and the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association (TMA), partially funded this project. He claimed that the methodology of the studies used to justify banning this ingredient in the European Union was flawed. He said that there were also methodology flaws in the studies used to justify banning the ingredient in the European Union. 1979 studyThe National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health found no link between titanium dioxide (and cancer) In that research, mice and rats were given the chemical compound in extremely large doses — amounting to 2.5 to 5 percent of their diet — across two years.

A F.D.A. representative responded to a request for comment. official said that the agency has reviewed the findings of the European Union’s ban and concluded that the available studies “do not demonstrate safety concerns connected to the use of titanium dioxide as a color additive.”

Pierre Herckes is a professor of chemistry at Arizona State University’s School of Molecular Sciences. was an author of a 2014 study on titanium dioxide, said that based on the current research, which is mixed, it’s tricky to say whether consumers should limit their consumption of the additive. “I don’t have a clear yes or no,” he said.

Dr. Herckes did however say that sweet treats and candy contain the highest levels and are mostly eaten by children. This is because they have smaller bodies and receive higher relative doses of titanium dioxide. “If there is damage to the DNA, classical carcinogenicity, that is cumulative over time. When you are exposed to that in the younger years, it can hit you in later years,” he said.

Mars Inc. is currently phasing out titanium dioxide from its products sold in Europe. However, the company has not yet taken action in the United States where titanium dioxide is still allowed.

In an emailed statement to The Times, Justin Comes, vice president of research and development at Mars Wrigley North America, said that the company’s use of titanium dioxide “is in full compliance with government regulations. While we do not comment on pending litigation, all Mars Wrigley ingredients are safe and manufactured in compliance with strict quality and safety requirements established by food safety regulators, including the F.D.A.”

Mars Inc. did no respond to questions about whether it intended to remove the additive in its products sold in America.

Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, said that he was baffled as to why the company wasn’t removing titanium dioxide from the U.S. market. “Maybe because the F.D.A. has not told them they’re going to ban it,” he said.

Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, said that steering clear of the additive could be difficult, since food companies aren’t required to include it on their ingredient lists, and not all companies do. The chemical compound may be especially hard to avoid in processed foods that might simply state “color added” rather than list the specific ingredients used.

Your best bet, then, for limiting your consumption of titanium dioxide is to choose products that don’t contain added coloring. Marion Nestle, a New York University professor, said that you could eat unprocessed, whole, or organic foods when possible.

Dr. Nestle noted that food additives like titanium dioxide were generally used to make “junk food look healthy and taste better.” She added that “those are not foods that a nutritionist would be likely to recommend except in very small quantities.”

Dr. Nestle stated that the F.D.A. is not responsible for the larger problem. The F.D.A. does not have the resources or the staff to conduct a scientific review of this ingredient or any other additives that may be in our food supply.

The agency has been required to review the thousands food additives it considered safe decades ago, based upon research that was. typically provided by the industryMr. Faber could also have used no research to support his assertions.

“Titanium dioxide is really the poster child for many chemicals that were reviewed, in some cases, more than 50 years ago for safety by the F.D.A. and haven’t been reviewed since,” he said. “So titanium dioxide is part of a bigger sTory about regulatory failure.”

That’s why legislators have introduced bills that would require the F.D.A. to better ensure the safetyChemicals before they are added in to food and other foods. regularly assessThey are for safety. Barring that, it’s left up to each food company to decide if it will include additives like titanium dioxide in their products, just as it’s up to individual consumers to decide if they will eat them.

As for Skittles in particular, Dr. Nestle said that since there are suspicions that the additive may be carcinogenic, “Mars should take it out. They shouldn’t be using it.” She added, “Why take a chance?”

This could impact your shopping choices at the supermarket. What will this mean for the outcome of Mars Inc.’s lawsuit? The jury is still out.

Source: NY Times

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