Skittles are some of the most popular candies for children, but do they contain dangerous chemicals “unfit for human consumption?” Recently, a lawsuit was filed against Skittles for use of titanium dioxide in candies. So what are the details and what types of candy do not contain this dangerous chemical titanium dioxide? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best water filters for PFAS “forever chemicals,” best green beauty makeup without PFAS “forever chemicals,” and best probiotics for children, now join us as we cover the recent lawsuit against Skittles candy and bring you better brands you can purchase instead.
Disclosure: This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. This post also contains affiliate links.
Skittles Candy Sued Over Dangerous Chemical “Unfit For Human Consumption”
One California man filed a lawsuit against Skittles over the use of nano titanium dioxide, a carcinogen considered “unfit for human consumption” in Europe. After scientists declared titanium dioxide “can no longer be considered as safe when used as a food additive” a safety assessment was done and then quickly banned as a food additive in the Europe Union. France beat everyone to the punch and banned it the year prior.
Most of this lawsuit filed in California focuses on claims that the packaging of the candy makes it difficult for consumers to know they are consuming a dangerous nanoparticle saying, “[N]either before nor at the time of purchase does defendant notify consumers like plaintiff that the products are unsafe to consumers, contain heightened levels of titanium dioxide and should otherwise be approached with caution.”
This fraud of omission according to the lawsuit is even more egregious because this dangerous chemical is not needed and not used by their competition. Other brightly colored candies like Nerds, Sour Patch Kids, and Swedish Fish don’t contain titanium dioxide at all. So why is Mars still using this ingredient that is potentially dangerous while marketing its products to children?
Ironically, even parent company Mars knew nano titanium dioxide was a problem and decided to do something about it. In 2016, Mars announced in a press release they would remove nanoparticles of titanium dioxide from their food products within five years. The year 2021 came and went and the presence of nano titanium dioxide is still present in their food produts. Oddly, this announcement from 2016 was scrubbed from their website recently.
What’s The Problem with Consuming Titanium Dioxide?
There are two different types of titanium dioxide–titanium dioxide and nano-scaled titanium dioxide. Most of the research on ill health effects is on nano-scaled titanium dioxide, whereas it’s still a mystery whether regular titanium dioxide is toxic in the amounts it’s allowed in food. (However, we do know inhalation of titanium dioxide is very bad for workers.) But one caveat is important to understand. You may not even know you are eating titanium dioxide because it may not be on the ingredient panel. If it’s used as a coloring agent in food, it’s not mandated to disclose its presence. What about if it’s nanoscaled or not? You’ll basically never know that piece of information either because it’s never on the ingredient panel.
Titanium dioxide is inside several conventional candies on the grocery store shelves, including Starbursts & Skittles, and this could be a health concern, especially for children. There has been no safety studies on the use of titanium dioxide as a food additive for children. Our adult bodies may have the ability to get rid of most of the titanium dioxide in urine and feces, but it’s not understood how many nanoparticles stick around inside your body and for how long. It’s also a problem for the environment because those same particles are too small for wastewater treatment plants to filter and they end up in rivers and lakes polluting the environment and wildlife.
Magged Younes, the chair of the European Union Food Safety Authority’s expert Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings, made a statement in a news release saying “A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that we could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles. After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however, they can accumulate in the body”. In other words, you may be ingesting small amounts, but those small amounts are adding up and could be a problem.
Additional food products containing titanium dioxide are the following:
- Cake frosting
- Coffee creamer (click here to see our investigation on coffee creamers!)
In order to avoid titanium dioxide in your food, make sure to read the ingredient label carefully. You can also bypass all that by purchasing organic food instead which does not allow the use of titanium dioxide as a food additive.
Nano-Scaled Titanium Dioxide in Ceramic Cookware
Nano titanium dioxide is also found in most ceramic pans, which is something most people are not aware of. So if you are concerned about titanium dioxide as a food additive, you should also be looking sideways at your quasi-ceramic “non-stick” pans as well.
A study published in the journal Food Additives & Contaminants in 2017 found that nanoparticles in non-stick coatings of ceramic pans are migrating into food. This type of coating consists of a silicone polymer matrix with embedded micro- and nanosized titanium dioxide particles and quartz silicium dioxide. This is really bad news because food-grade titanium dioxide has been linked to immune disruption and pre-cancerous lesions in the gut.
If you would like to avoid this chemical in your cookware, check out our popular cookware & bakeware investigation for the safest products. We’ve already gone through all the cookware to show you which ones are coated with this nanoparticle and which are not. Nano has also been found in some types of stainless steel cookware as well, but it’s unknown whether that type of cookware allows nanoparticles to migrate into your food.
Better Candy–So What About Chocolate with Lead & Cadmium
We wanted to provide you with some options for better candy, but before we do that, we need to have a discussion about the heavy metals in chocolate.
For many years, As You Sow has been testing chocolate for heavy metals–lead and cadmium. You’ll notice going through their data that most of what they are finding is in dark chocolate. Right before the Skittles lawsuit hit, they updated some testing in 2022 in time for us to show you which brands have high levels of these heavy metals. Unfortunately, they do not have testing of all the organic brands we would recommend, but there’s enough here for you to see dark chocolate brands like Theo, Trader Joe, Alter Ego, Ocho Candy, Navitas, Green & Black’s, Sprouts Farmers Market, Whole Foods, & Equal Exchange all had elevated levels of lead or cadmium in selected products.
Before you grab your pitchforks, understand this is an industry-wide issue for dark chocolate. It’s not just them, it’s also the major chocolatiers like Ghirardelli, Godiva, Lindt, Dove, Hershey’s, Russell Stover, Starbucks, Cadbury, Lindt, and Alfred Ritter.
Mamavation recommends using good judgment and varying between milk and dark chocolate and using moderation as your guide. I would not assume that if you don’t find your favorite brand of chocolate in this testing list, it’s free and clear. Quite the contrary. It’s best to assume it’s everywhere and be mindful instead.
Better Candy & Cookie Mamavation Recommends
Trying to avoid titanium dioxide as a food additive now? We got you covered. Mamavation is making recommendations that you can swap for better candy and other sweet treats.
Our recommendations are focused mostly on organic, allergen-friendly, or more natural candy as our recommendations. If you decide to stick with natural flavor and natural colors and read your label, you’ll be able to avoid titanium dioxide as a food additive. Just be mindful of the amount of heavy metals that are in dark chocolate in general. Note, not all of these chocolate brands have been tested, but again, we recommend being mindful that chocolate has some issues and enjoy only in moderation.
Sugar is not good for your health, so it’s best to be mindful of how much you consume in general anyways, especially in terms of young children. In other words, feel free to enjoy, but don’t overdo it. Here are our recommendations of chocolate candy, sweet candy, cookies & cookie mixes, and cake mixes that are free from titanium dioxide.
- Alter Ego Dark Chocolate Bars
- Alter Ego Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffle Thins
- Alter Ego Dark Chocolate Truffles
- Cocomels Organic Sea Salt Chocolate Coconut Caramels
- Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Almonds & Sea Salt
- Equal Exchange Organic Panama Extra Dark Chocolate Bar
- Green & Blacks Organic Milk Chocolate Bar
- Hershey’s Organic Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate
- Heavenly Organics Double Dark Chocolate Honey Patties
- Hu Kitchen Organic Dark Chocolate Gems
- Jennie’s Organic Double Chocolate & Sea Salt Coconut Macaroons
- Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
- Natierra Dark Chocolate Covered Goji Berries
- Natierra Dark Chocolate Covered Banana Slices
- PlantLife Organic Vegan Chocolate Covered Sicilian Almonds
- Reese’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
- Skinny Dipped Chocolate Covered Almonds: Cocoa, Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, Lemon Bliss Yogurt Covered Almonds, and Super Dark + Sea Salt Vegan-Friendly Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds.
- Taza Organic Stone Ground Chocolate Bark Snacking Thins
- Taza Organic Sea Salt & Almond Chocolates
- Theo Organic Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond Bars
- Theo Organic Dark Chocolate Salted Almond Bars
- Theo Organic Dark Chocolate Mint Bars
- UNREAL Candy Variety Pack: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, Crispy Quinoa Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Butter Cups, Peanut Gems, Crispy Quinoa Gems, and Coconut Bars
- Annie’s Organic Bernie’s Farm Fruit Snacks
- Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears
- Darrel Lea Australian Strawberry Licorice
- Lovely Organic Sour Chewy Candies
- Numa Strawberries & Cream Soft Candy
- Pink Panda Fruit Chews
- Pink Panda Sour Gummies
- Smart Sweets Sweet Fish
- Smart Sweets Lollipops: Blue raspberry & watermelon
- Smart Sweets Variety Pack: Gummy worms, red twists, fruity gummy bears, & Cola gummies
- Smart Sweets Variety Pack: Sweet fish, sourmelon bites, peach rings, & sour blast buddies
- Torie & Howard Organic Sour Chewy Fruities
- Torie & Howard Organic Hard Candies: Blood organic & honey, pomegranate & nectarine, pink grapefruit & tupelo honey, & D’anjou pear & cinnamon
- Wedderspoon Organic Manuka Honey Lollipops
- YumEarth Organic Spring Lollipops
- YumEarth Organic Candy Canes
- YumEarth Organic Fruit Chews
- YumEarth Organic Fruit Flavored Snacks
- YumEarth Organic Lemon Hard Candies
- YumEarth Organic Fruit Flavored Lollipops
- YumEarth Organic Giggles Fruit Flavored Chewy Candy Bites
- 365 Organic Vanilla Animal Cookies
- 365 by Whole Foods Organic Double Chocolate Sandwich Cremes
- 365 by Whole Foods Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Annie’s Organic Chocolate Chip Bites
- Annie’s Organic Animal Cookies
- Ava Organic Coconut Crispie Cookies
- Back to Nature Cookie Creme Cookies
- Back to Nature Peanut Butter Creme Cookies
- Back to Nature Chocolate Chunk Cookies
- Emmy’s Organic Chocolate Covered Coconut & Peanut Butter Cookie Bites
- Emmy’s Organic Vanilla Bean Coconut Cookies
- Emmy’s Organic Peanut Butter Brownie Snaps
- Emmy’s Organic Cocoa Coconut Cookies
- Gusta Organic Biscotti Sweet Almond Cookies
- Heavenly Hunks Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
- Heavenly Hunks Oatmeal White Chip Cookies
- HomeFree Organic Gluten Free Ginger Snaps
- Jovial Einkorn Checkerboard High Protein Cookies
- MadeGood Organic Snickerdoodle Cookies
- MadeGood Organic Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Mi-Del Organic Ginger Snap Cookies
- Natural Nectar Organic Dark Chocolate Biscuits
- Natural Nectar Organic Milk Chocolate Biscuits
- Newman O’s Organic Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies
- Newman O’s Organic Vanilla Creme Cookies
- Olyra Organic Sandwich Biscuits variety pack: dark chocolate, hazelnut, blueberry yogurt, & cinnamon tahini,
- Simple Mills Organic Chocolate Brownie Thins
- Simple Mills Organic Almond Flour Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cake & Cookie Baking Mixes
- Annie’s Homegrown Organic Confetti Cake Baking Mix
- Annie’s Homegrown Organic Double Chocolate Brownie Mix
- Annie’s Homegrown Organic Brownie Bar Baking Mix
- Annie’s Homegrown Organic Chocolate Chip Cookie Baking Mix
- Emmy’s Organic Brownie & Blondie Baking Mix
- European Gourmet Baking Organic Vanilla Cake Mix
- Fertile Goddess Company Lactation Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Baking Mix
- FoodStirs Organic Junk Free Bakery Simply Sweet Vanilla Cake Mix
- FoodStirs Organic Junk Free Bakery Brownie Lovers Baking Mix
- FoodStirs Organic Junk Free Bakery Snickerdoodle Blondie Baking Mix
- FoodStirs Organic Junk Free Bakery Sugar Cookie Baking Mix
- FoodStirs Organic Junk Free Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie Baking Mix
- FoodStirs Organic Junk Free Bakery Pumpkin Spice Cookie Baking Mix
- Happy Mama Organic Lactation Cookies Cinnamon & Oats Baking Mix
- Julie’s Real Paleo Blondie Brownie Mix
- Miss Jones Baking Company Organic Vanilla Cake Baking Mix
- Miss Jones Baking Company Organic Chocolate Cake Baking Mix
- Miss Jones Baking Company Organic Brownie Baking Mix
- Miss Jones Baking Company Organic Confetti Pop Cookie Mix
- Miss Jones Baking Company Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie Baking Mix
- Namaste Organic Dark Chocolate Brownie Baking Mix
- Otto’s Natural Organic Grain Free Cassava Cookie Baking Mix
- Pyure Organic Sugar-Free Keto Fudge Brownie Baking Mix
- Pyure Organic Chocolate Chip Cookie Baking Mix
- Simple Mills Almond Flour Vanilla Cake & Cupcake Baking Mix
- Simple Mills Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookie Baking Mix
- Wholesome Organic Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Baking Mix
PFAS Consumer Studies Mamavation Has Released & More!
Mamavation has been commissioning studies looking for PFAS “forever chemicals” inside everyday products you use. These chemicals also show up in plastics because some plastics are fluorinated.
We are continuing to test and run studies and if you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, simply go to Environmental Health News and donate on behalf of Mamavation. Environmental Health News & Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University has partnered with us on most of our PFAS studies and provides support & more scientific scrutiny.
Here are the PFAS consumer investigations we have finished:
- Nut Butters
- Pasta & Tomato Sauce
- Cooking Oils
- Sports Bras
- Green Beauty Makeup
- Period Underwear
- Parchment Paper
- Bamboo Flooring
We also have other investigations you may like.
- Best Yoga mats
- Best Organic Mattresses
- Best Air purifiers
- Best Cookware
- Best Plant-Based Milks
- Best Water Filters for PFAS Filtration
- Best Collagen
- Best Electrolyte Replacement Drinks, Sports Drinks, & Coconut Water
- Best Infrared Saunas
For a complete list of Mamavation investigations go here.