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Firm faces lawsuit over claims of “heightened levels” of titanium dioxide as a food additive in Skittles
John Mulligan Twitter Email
September 10 2022 02:30 AM
Operating profits at the Irish arm of Mars more than doubled to nearly €10m in its last financial year as it slashed overheads, newly-filed accounts for the business show. Revenue edged 3pc higher to €123.5m.
The family-owned group, which owns household brands from Skittles and M&Ms to Dolmio and Whiskas – as well as the Mars bar – managed to cut its administrative costs in Ireland to €11.3m from €15.2m during the financial year.
Its profit after tax jumped to €8.1m from €3.5m.
The accounts note that the group continues to develop the four categories that it operates – food, chocolate, petcare and gum.
The Irish unit paid an interim dividend of €137,000 on the year, and a final dividend of €147,000 in respect of the year.
The company noted that throughout the Covid crisis, the Mars group did not experience any significant disruption in supply chains and did not expect the pandemic to have any material adverse effect on its net sales and cash flow.
During the summer, Mars was sued in the United States by a consumer who claims that Skittles are unfit to eat because they contain a known toxin that the company had pledged six years ago to phase out.
In a proposed class action filed in California, Jenile Thames accused Mars of endangering unsuspecting Skittles eaters by using “heightened levels” of titanium dioxide, or TiO2, as a food additive.
Titanium dioxide is used in thousands of food products. It is also used to whiten products including paint, suncream, cosmetics and plastic.
The lawsuit noted that titanium dioxide would be banned in the European Union from August, after a food safety regulator there deemed it unsafe because of “genotoxicity” or the ability to change DNA.
In 2021, the European Food Safety Authority published an opinion that stated that titanium dioxide could no longer be considered safe when used as a food additive.
In January this year, an EU regulation was adopted withdrawing the authorisation to use titanium dioxide as a food additive in food products. It came into force in February, but a six-month transitional period was permitted to allow food businesses time to phase out the ingredient and reformulate their products.
Mars had pledged in early 2016 to remove artificial colours from its food products over the next five years. In October 2016, it confirmed that titanium dioxide was among the colorants being removed.
Last year, Mars said it found that for most of its global consumers artificial colours were not “ingredients of concern”.
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A second proposed class action lawsuit was filed against Mars in Chicago last month in relation to its use of titanium dioxide in Skittles.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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