A second lawsuit claiming that Skittles are “unfit for human consumption” because they contain the colorant titanium dioxide was filed against Mars in Illinois federal court last week.
The proposed class action lawsuit, filed by consumer William Mignin III, is nearly identical to one filed by a California consumer in July.
Both lawsuits claim that the confectioner’s use of the common artificial colorant — used to make colors appear brighter — could cause harm to consumers. Studies have shown that titanium dioxide could cause damage to cell DNA, and the substance has been classified as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Titanium dioxide has generally recognized as safe status as a food colorant from the FDA, but it is not permitted in other countries. Earlier this year, the European Commission announced it was banning titanium dioxide as a food additive. All products sold in the EU needed to be free of the chemical as of last week. According to the European Food Safety Authority, it is unclear whether the colorant can do permanent damage to people who eat it.
In 2016, Mars made a pledge to remove artificial colors — including titanium dioxide — from its human food portfolio within five years. Last year, the company posted a new statement about its commitment, stating it found that for the majority of its global consumers, artificial colors were not “ingredients of concern.” The company prioritized removing artificial colors from its European products — since many of them, titanium dioxide included, are not allowed there or require significant warning labels — as well as its dinnertime foods.
In response to the initial lawsuit, a Mars spokesperson said in an email, “While we do not comment on pending litigation, our use of titanium dioxide complies with FDA regulations.”