“Skittles deemed unfit for human consumption” Lawsuit cries safety concerns of titanium dioxide

Published by Rebecca Baron on

We all know candy isn’t great for us, but unfit for human consumption? A coloring agent called titanium dioxide and its safety in the food supply has sparked recent debate in a lawsuit against the Mars Candy Company. A recent class action lawsuit alleges that Skittles has a “heightened risk of health effects in regards to genotoxicity.”

A spokesperson for this candy conglomerate would not respond to the lawsuit but stated their products all fall under the legal limits set by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. The allowance set up by the FDA is at less than 1%, while the European Union (EU) sets its limit much lower for many years, but recently put a complete ban on titanium dioxide (TiO2) in early 2022.

The issue with this statement is the lack of FDA involvement in newer food additives if they are deemed to fall under G.R.A.S. “Generally Recognized as Safe”. Products aren’t always tested through the agency, and companies often “self-regulate” instead. One can see the issue with this loophole, if able to read between the lines.

The Mars Candy corporation also stated back in 2016 that they intend to phase out this additive, but have failed to fully do so. They are also one of the country’s top candy producers.

What is Titanium Dioxide?

Titanium dioxide is defined as a white unreactive solid which occurs naturally as the mineral rutile and is used extensively as a white pigment. A brightener in products such as candies, toothpaste, non-white foods, and clear beverages. Think of the whiteness in any packaged foods, even cottage cheese, and Beyond Meat’s plant-based chicken tenders- which also list titanium dioxide in their ingredients.

Its scope even reaches outside of the food industry, commercially used in paper and plastic goods, cosmetics, paints, and varnish. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is considered the second most used material in consumer products. It is used in nanoparticle form, causing concern for inhalation and storing in fat cells.

In fact, titanium dioxide exposure is an occupational hazard risk, do we really want this a regular part of our diet?

Unfit for Human Consumption?

The recent lawsuit recalls studies that made Skittles banned in France back in 2019, over concerns that titanium dioxide’s ability to alter human DNA. Previous studies conducted in 2015 showed that titanium dioxide causes inflammation of the central nervous system, triggering microglia activation, and even starting the signaling pathways for cell death! In addition to these issues, TiO2 caused brain inflammation, even causing problems with spatial memory and locomotive function.

Another study done in 2014 showed that titanium dioxide does not pass through the body but rather accumulates. Crossing the blood-brain barrier and storing it in the cortex and hippocampus. The study noted that titanium dioxide tends to irritate mucous secreting cells, and has the ability to gather in the gut lining. Another study was done in 2021 linking mineral nanoparticles such as titanium dioxide as disrupting the gut lining, altering the four elements of the intestinal barrier function.

The target market for many of these food products is another concern. Mainly marketed towards children, the risk of accumulating in organ tissue over the human lifespan.

Photo by: Craig Capture

In another study, young rats ingesting titanium dioxide over a 30-day period found the substance spread throughout the entire body and caused edema in the liver, heart damage, and cell activation in the stomach. In older rats, liver and kidney damage was noted, as well as increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut). While the study showed that this substance did not cause overt cytotoxicity or apoptosis, overall concluded titanium dioxide “would induce epithelium impairment, and would persist in gut cells where they would possibly induce chronic damage.”

We’ve become a sugar nation. The United States candy market exceeds on average $35 billion dollars annually. Learn healthier sweetener alternatives in my article 6 Health Hacks for Longevity.

How to avoid titanium dioxide?

Since companies aren’t always required to list chemical additives in their ingredients, eliminating them entirely can be tricky. Even harder to avoid them in daily commercial items. Your best bet then is to avoid putting them in your mouth, by limiting your consumption of processed foods, especially bright-colored candies. When dining out, emphasize whole foods you can readily and easily identify. Read food labels and check the ingredients list. You’d be surprised where you can find it.

Opt for foods with natural colorings from foods, and not heavily bleached. “Less larger than life” it looks, the better.

Periodic cleansing through fasting and elimination diets may also help prevent bioaccumulation of food additives and other nasties. I am a firm believer in conducting semi-annual cleanses or small fasts to prevent the accumulation of cell damage over a lifetime. Our bodies have not evolved with our industries and are bombarded with hundreds of chemicals and additives on a daily basis.

Even a simple daily habit of not snacking for a period of time and flushing the body with lots of purified water with lemon and a touch of sea salt. Your liver and kidneys would appreciate it!

Titanium Free Candies

Thankfully, there are a few options. I have found a food company that offers a healthier approach to candy, many of which are titanium dioxide free. They are Dr. John’s Healthy Sweets, a small company focused on providing nutrient-fortified candies that are sugar-free without using artificial sweeteners! They use spirulina, turmeric, fruit, and vegetable for colors and sweetens their candies with stevia, erythritol, and xylitol. A spokesperson from Dr. John’s Healthy Sweets states that only their products with white swirls (such as lollipops) contain titanium dioxide, and I appreciate the transparency in their ingredients.

They have several other varieties that do not contain titanium dioxide.

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With the evidence presented, perhaps the FDA should re-evaluate its recommended allowance for nanoparticle additives like titanium dioxide. Many food additives are in dire need of updated research, regulation, and recommended daily allowance. The Mars Candy Co. may be following FDA guidelines, but maybe they should follow up on their phases out of titanium dioxide.

When we think of a product such as Skittles and other kinds of candy, of course, we don’t think HEALTHY. We know it’s full of processed sugar, but now we have a whole slew of other chemical additives to think about. Nanoparticles such as titanium dioxide and their effect on our cells are new frontiers, and we must consider the impact its had on the state of disease in our country over the last decades. “Everything in moderation” is not necessarily the case in regards to some ingredients. Since we can’t rely on federal agencies and food corporations to stay up with the times, it’s our duty to be mindful of what we’re consuming when we purchase any packaged food.

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