Taste The Titanium Dioxide?
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
The tagline of the popular candy Skittles is “Taste the rainbow.” Now it may be more appropriate to say “Taste the titanium dioxide.” And this definitely does not make for good publicity.
In recent news, a consumer by the name of Jenile Thames filed a lawsuit against Mars Inc., the multi billion dollar manufacturing company responsible for making Skittles among many other candy items consumed by Americans, including M&Ms, Twix, Snickers, Hubba Bubba and Starburst (just to name a few).
“In a lawsuit seeking class-action status filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Thursday, attorneys for San Leandro resident Jenile Thames said Skittles are unsafe for consumers because they contain ‘heightened levels’ of titanium dioxide,” according to a report from USA TODAY.
“Mars uses titanium dioxide to produce Skittles' well-known array of artificial colors. In 2016, the candy maker publicly shared its intention to remove titanium dioxide from its products in the coming years, the complaint noted Thursday, but titanium dioxide is still used in Skittles.”
“Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from the earth, processed and refined, and added to a variety of foods, as well as other consumer products. White in color, it is used to enhance the color and sheen of certain foods and is also key for food safety applications,” reports Food Insight.
“In its natural state it exists in different bulk crystalline forms, such as anatase and rutile, but during processing it is ground into a very fine powder.”
Titanium dioxide is found in many commercial sunscreens. When applied to the skin, titanium dioxide (and zinc oxide) forms a physical barrier for blocking harmful rays from the sun. Many processed foods such as gum, coffee creamers, pastries and other candies besides Skittles do, in fact, contain titanium dioxide. This mineral is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
So, does the lawsuit the woman mentioned earlier filed against Mars, Inc. hold any weight?
This may not be a battle she can win. The FDA has approved the use of titanium dioxide in regulated amounts. Mars, Inc claims that they use only an amount that is fit for human consumption per the FDA.
It is, however, important to recognize that Europe and some other countries actually ban the use of regulated titanium dioxide in food products. Just last May, the European Food Safety Authority announced that they no longer considered titanium dioxide to be a safe food additive. The fear is that titanium dioxide is a genotoxin.
“A genotoxin is a chemical or agent that can cause DNA or chromosomal damage. Such damage in a germ cell has the potential to cause a heritable altered trait (germline mutation). DNA damage in a somatic cell may result in a somatic mutation, which may lead to malignant transformation (cancer),” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
I cannot give a definitive answer as to whether titanium dioxide (even in small amounts) is dangerous for our health. But I can definitively say that it is extremely important for us to all be proactive about what ingredients are present in the foods we consume. So many processed foods contain additives and materials we cannot even pronounce. It is therefore important to read food labels like your life depends on it (because, honestly, it may if you are someone who is struggling with your health and not following a healthy diet). There are several other food additives that are allowed in the United States and banned in other countries. I highly recommend checking out this article to educate yourself.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid processed foods as much as possible. I know eating candy can be satisfying and fun, but limit your intake and opt for fresh fruit or dark chocolate if you are feeling that sweet tooth. For more information about controlling your sugar urges, read here.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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