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Warning labels for coloured foods: Campaigners call for stronger action

7th July 2008

This afternoon's plenary session at the European Parliament will see the second reading of a package of four draft regulations aimed at assisting the free movement of food within the EU and improving health and consumer protection.

The regulations include a new provision that foods containing the six food colours E110, E104, E122, E129, E102 and E124 must be labelled not only with the relevant E number but also with the words "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children".

The provision was added following evidence generated by research commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency, published in September 2007. The research, known as the "Southampton Study" showed that a combination of six food colours and one preservative increased hyperactivity in a cross section of children, not just those who had been previously diagnosed with ADHD.

Anna Glayzer, co-ordinator of the Food Commission's "Action on Additives" Campaign said, "Putting warning labels on foods may seem like a positive step for the consumer, but our concern is that this will be just one more thing parents are expected to look out for. Even if you do have time to check every label while you shop, you can't vet everything your child eats outside the home, and if you are eating out you don't even get to see labels. Why not take the burden off the parent and simply ban these colours? The evidence is there, we know that they affect children and they serve no useful purpose in our food."

In April this year, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) advised the Government to introduce a voluntary ban in the UK in the hope that manufacturers would stop using the six dyes by the end of 2009. As yet, no action has been taken to enforce the voluntary ban. At the same time as deciding on a voluntary ban, the FSA agreed to argue in favour of a mandatory ban at the EU level.

Glayzer added, "Some companies are re-formulating, but we are still finding newly launched products that contain the Southampton colours. We urge the Food Standards Agency to give some teeth to the voluntary ban in the UK and to continue to back a full mandatory EU ban on these six dyes. Labelling alone is not sufficient."

A full list of all the products identified by the Action on Additives Campaign as containing the potentially harmful additives is available on the campaign website http://www.actiononadditives.com/.

Further information:

A summary of the draft regulations:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/expert/briefing_page/32585-189-07-28-20080624BRI32584-07-07-2008-2008/default_p001c004_en.htm

European Parliament Plenary Schedule for today:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/eplive/expert/all_ebsplan02_week/28-2008/default_en.htm

The six food colourings which, along with the preservative E211 Sodium Benzoate, were shown by the Southampton Study to increase hyperactivity in children:

E102 Tartrazine
E104 Quinoline Yellow
E110 Sunset Yellow
E122 Carmoisine
E124 Ponceau 4R
E129 Allura Red

Some examples of new products containing the colours:

Cadbury's Creme Egg Twister, manufactured by Cadbury Trebor Bassett conatins E110 Sunset Yellow.

Starburst Choozers, manufactured by Mars, contain E104 and E122.

Sugarfree Trident Splash Apple and Apricot Flavour Gum, manufactured by Cadbury Trebor Bassett, contains E104

For further information contact Anna Glayzer 020 7837 2250, email: anna@actiononadditives.com website, http://www.actiononadditives.com/

The Action on Additives campaign is coordinated by The Food Commission, an independent food watchdog, and was set up in direct response to September 2007 research which showed a link between consumption of food colourings and hyperactive behaviour in some children. See www.actiononadditives.com