Skittles famously wants fans to "taste the rainbow," but a new lawsuit says the chemical used to create that rainbow is a toxic health threat. The suit filed in Oakland last week calls Skittles "unfit for human consumption" because maker Mars Inc. continues to use titanium dioxide to produce the candy's vibrant colors, reports Today. Nonsense, replies Mars. “While we do not comment on pending litigation, our use of titanium dioxide complies with FDA regulations," the company says in a statement. The FDA does indeed allow the chemical to be used for coloring, notes USA Today, providing it does not exceed 1% of the food's weight.
The lawsuit filed by consumer Jenile Thomas is seeking class-action status, alleging that those who eat Skittles "are at heightened risk of a host of health effects for which they were unaware stemming from genotoxicity—the ability of a chemical substance to change DNA." The filing notes that Mars promised to phase out the use of titanium dioxide in 2016 but has failed to do so. Thomas also alleges that Mars deliberately makes it difficult to read the ingredients on the package.
Insider notes that titanium dioxide is used in everything from paints to plastics to roofing materials to sunscreens. However, its application in food products has increasingly been called into question, particularly overseas. France, for example, already has outlawed its use in food, and a similar ban goes into effect throughout the European Union next month. The lawsuit asks that all US consumers of Skittles be covered, though it says that number is too big to estimate.