Skittles Unfit for Human Consumption According to New Lawsuit

There's no denying Skittles are a candy, with little debate as to whether or not the confectionary would fall under the "junk food" category. Now, a lawsuit filed in California suggests the fruity treats may be downright toxic. In the class action suit filed last Thursday, plaintiff Jenile Thames accuses Mars Inc., the maker of Skittles and many other popular candy brands, of using titanium dioxide in the sugary mix.

The suit says the addition of titanium dioxide, or TiO2, makes Skittles "unfit for human consumption," pointing out many countries in Europe have banned the substance.

"A reasonable consumer would expect that [Skittles] can be safely purchased and consumed as marketed and sold," the lawsuit reads. "However, the products are not safe."

Because of the inclusion, the suit adds those who consume 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."

Furthermore, the complain says TiO2 is also used in paints, coatings, adhesives, plastics, inks, and roofing materials, and has "demonstrated an ability to pass through biological membranes, circulate through the body and enter cells."

The company said in a statement obtained by TODAY that it abides by any federal rules and regulations in regards to the use of titanium dioxide.

"While we do not comment on pending litigation, our use of titanium dioxide complies with FDA regulations," a company spokesperson told the show.

Candymakers have often used TiO2 as a pigment to help whiten candy. Mars previously committed to phasing out TiO2 beginning in 2016, but those steps have yet to be made.

"We are pleased to see that MARS has taken a positive step toward eliminating toxic, unnecessary nanomaterials from its line of food products. 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," the Center for Food Safety said of Mars' announcement in 2016.

it added, "Studies have shown that the human health risks associated with ingesting nanoparticles of many common food additives far outweigh any utility for producers. 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."

Thames, the primary plaintiff in the case, is seeking unspecified damages for Mars' alleged violation of California consumer laws.

Cover photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images