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Crackdown on additives needed

6th September 2007

Research published by The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has today confirmed that certain artificial food colourings and a commonly used food preservative may have an affect on some children’s behaviour. The research found there was a possible link between consumption of these additives and increases in hyperactive behaviour in susceptible children.

The FSA research was undertaken after a previous study, publicised by The Food Commission in 2002, indicated that certain additives could influence children's behaviour.

Although some food manufacturers have already reformulated products in response to consumers’ preference for products which are free of artificial colourings, other manufacturers continue to produce foods and drinks which contain the artificial colourings and the preservative studied in this survey.

Ian Tokelove, a spokesperson for The Food Commission, commented, "These artifical colourings may brighten up processed foods and drinks but it appears they have the potential to play havoc with some children’s behaviour. Manufacturers should clean up their act and remove these additives, which are neither needed or wanted in our food”.

In March 2007 The Food Commission revealed that all the additives tested in the latest FSA survey are banned from food and drink made specifically for the under threes, but are routinely used in medicines aimed at the same age group. Many fizzy drinks, squashes, desserts and sweets also contain these additives but carry no warning that they should not be consumed by the under threes.

More information

For further information contact Ian Tokelove on 020 7837 2250 or ian@foodcomm.org.uk

The FSA research was undertaken after a previous study, publicised by The Food Commission in 2002, indicated that certain additives could influence children's behaviour.

Typical soft drinks and squashes which contain the additives surveyed in this study include: Irn-Bru (E110, E124, E211); Lucozade Energy (E110, E211), Diet Coke (E211); Fanta Orange (E211); Sprite (E211); Dr Pepper (E211); Vimto squash and Vimto Fizzy (E211); Ribena squash (E211).

Additives surveyed in the FSA study were: sunset yellow (E110); tartrazine (E102); carmoisine (E122); ponceau 4R (E124); quinoline yellow (E104); allura red (E129) and the preservative sodium benzoate (E211).

Artifical colourings, along with high levels of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners, flavourings and flavour enhancers, are frequently used to encourage the consumption of highly processed foods which are typically high in calories but low in other essential nutrients. Such foods do not contribute to a balanced diet, they undermine it.

Under EC guidelines, the additives tested by the FSA should be accompanied by a health warning when used in medicines. The artifical colourings should carry a warning they ‘may cause allergic reactions’ and the preservative sodium benzoate (E211) should carry a warning that it can be ‘mildly irritant to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes’.

The Food Commission is an independent watchdog which campaigns for healthier, safer, sustainable food in the UK.

The following pages may also be of interest

  • Articles: Give artificial colours the red card
    Research has confirmed a link between certain food additives and hyperactivity. Anna Glayzer investigates the use of these in children's medicines.
  • Press: Banned food additives permitted in children's medicines
    Medicines for babies and young children frequently contain a cocktail of additives which are banned from foods and drinks designed to be consumed by the under threes.
  • Press: Food additives do cause temper tantrums
    Food colourings used in many popular children's foods do cause temper tantrums and disruptive behaviour in up to a quarter of toddlers, according to new government research, revealed today in the Food Magazine