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Artificial promises

Published in The Food Magazine 20th March 2009

Cadbury and Mars products with artificial coloursWith Easter upon us, retailers have flooded their shelves with egg themed confectionery, many of them soaking up extra stock originally bound for fallen stalwart Woolworths.

The Action on Additives campaign wants to know why, despite a promise to remove artificial additives from all sweet brands by the end of 2008, so many products by confectionery giant Cadbury still contain artificial colours shown to increase hyperactivity in susceptible children. Major Easter brands Cadbury’s Creme Egg and Cadbury’s Mini Eggs still use the colours. Other Cadbury products that use one or more of the six colours include: Creme Egg Twisted, Roses, and Dairy Milk Turkish. (See box).

Cadbury made the promise in September 2007 in the immediate aftermath of the Southampton Study, and repeated it in April 2008 following the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) much publicised decision to pursue a ‘voluntary ban’ on six colours.

In September 2007, Mars also pledged to remove all artificial colours from various ranges, including Starburst, by the end of 2007. In 2009, Starburst Choozers still contain Quinoline Yellow (E104) and Carmoisine (E122). Mars Revels also contain three of the Southampton six: E104, E122 and E124.

Action on Additives co-ordinator Anna Glayzer commented, “To make these pledges at times of high media attention and then quietly neglect to honour them is simply cynical PR opportunism. It’s irresponsible behaviour from major multinational confectioners, especially when many other companies have reformulated.”

The intention behind the FSA ‘voluntary ban’ decision was the complete voluntary removal, by manufacturers, of the six Southampton colours by the end of 2009. However, the decision was not given Ministerial clearance until November 2008, seven months after it was made. In February 2009, the FSA finally answered the question of how it intended to ‘police’ the voluntary ban by announcing that it would publish information on its website on brands and companies that have removed the colours from their products.

The information is not obtained by surveying the market, but by inviting companies to submit details of colour free products. At the time of going to print the FSA website hosts three separate lists consisting of a disappointing 12 manufacturers, six retailers and only two caterers.

The lists are only hosted on the main FSA website and not on its more accessible public advice ‘Eat Well’ site. Meanwhile, the Action on Additives website continues to list products from dozens of manufacturers and retailers that contain one or more of the Southampton additives, including the preservative Sodium Benzoate.

Whilst the FSA position on the six Southampton colours looks increasingly soft, no action whatsoever is being taken on the seventh Southampton additive, Sodium Benzoate (E211), despite the FSA’s pledge to revisit the topic.

In July 2008, The European Parliament voted in favour of labelling foods containing the six food colours with the words 'may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.' The Europe wide warning labels will not appear on products until the end of 2010. There is no specific requirement concerning position or prominence of the EU warning, which means that labels may be small and tucked away in a position where they are less visible.

The Action on Additives website continues to list products containing the Southampton seven. To check the list, suggest products, or download our new additives schools packs go to: www.actiononadditives.com
To view the FSA lists visit: www.food.gov.uk/safereating/chemsafe/additivesbranch/colours/colourfree

Cadbury and Mars products that contain one or more of the colours (E102, E104, E110, E122, E124, E129)

Cadbury Products

  • Creme Egg E110
  • Creme Egg Twisted E110
  • Dairy Milk Turkish E129
  • Fry’s Turkish Delight E129
  • Maynard Sports Mixture E104, E110, E124
  • Mini Eggs E122, E129
  • Roses E110
  • Sugarfree Trident Soft
  • Peppermint E129
  • Sugarfree Trident Splash
  • Apple & Apricot Flavour E104

Mars Products

  • Revels E104, E122, E124
  • Starburst Choozers E104, E122