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European Food Safety Authority lowers acceptable daily intake for three of the Southampton six

As part of its ongoing review of the safety of food additives,  the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published opinions on six food colours E110, E104, E122, E129, E102 and E124. 

EFSA's scientific panel on additives, the ANS Panel, has lowered the Acceptable Daily Intakes (ADIs) for the artificial food colours Quinoline Yellow (E104), Sunset Yellow FCF (E110) and Ponceau 4R (E124) The ADIs for the other three colours, Tartrazine (E102), Azorubine/Carmoisine (E122) and Allura Red AC (E129) remain unchanged.

The latest EFSA review took into account additional evidence besides the Southampton study.  The six colours, along with the preservative sodium benzoate,  were shown by the Southampton study in September 2007 to increase hyperactivity in children.  In March 2008 however, EFSA concluded that the Southampton data could not be used as a basis for altering the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of the respective food colours or sodium benzoate, largely because the additives had been administered in combinations so that effect could not be ascribed to individual colours. 

Anna Glayzer, co-ordinator of the Food Commission's "Action on Additives" Campaign, which has been lobbying for a ban both in the UK and EU said, "That the Acceptable Daily Intakes have been lowered for three of the six colours shows once again that concerns are justified.  From the point of view of the consumer however, it remains impossible to measure what quantity of any of these additives one is consuming as levels are not indicated on labels.  These colours are totally unnecessary in foods.  We continue to call for a mandatory ban.

In April 2008 the UK Food Standards Agency called for a 'voluntary ban' on the six colours by the end of 2009 and for mandatory action at a European level.  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 warning labels are expected to start to appear in mid 2010.

Further information:

See EFSA press release