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One thousand reasons why suspect food additives are hard to avoid

8th March 2008

Campaigners at The Food Commission have found more than 1,000 food, drink and medicine products that contain one or more of the seven food additives that have been linked to increased hyperactivity in susceptible children.

The link to hyperactivity was shown in September 2007, when research commissioned by the UK’s Food Standards Agency was published.

The list of products is available online at http://www.actiononadditives.com/. Action on Additives campaign co-ordinator Anna Glayzer says ‘One thousand products seems like a lot, but we believe there are hundreds, if not thousands, more products for sale in the UK that contain these additives. We found the additives in products such as sweets, cakes, drinks and medicines – many of which are clearly targeted at children.’

300 different manufacturers appear on the database, with Cadbury contributing the most products so far (see table below), closely followed by the KCB Group and the high street chain Woolworths.

The Food Standards Agency, which commissioned the research on food additives, has advised that, ‘If parents are concerned about any additives they should remember that, by law, food additives must be listed on the label so they can make the choice to avoid the product if they want to.’ Glayzer challenges, ‘Our findings show that this advice is very difficult to follow. Labels on the products we found were hard to read and inconsistent, with additives listed sometimes by name, sometimes by E-number.’

She pointed out, ‘The survey found a great many examples of packaging designed specifically to appeal to children, using cartoon characters and bright colours, as well as products aimed at concerned parents that give a false impression of being healthy. Where medicines contain these additives, parents may have little choice but to administer them. We would also like to stress that parents cannot check food served by caterers and restaurants, where no ingredients list is offered.’

More information

The Food Standards Agency has not banned the food additives but has asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to review the evidence. EFSA are expected to give their opinion next week.

The seven food additives linked to hyperactive behaviour in children are;

E102 Tartrazine
E104 Quinoline Yellow
E110 Sunset Yellow
E122 Carmoisine
E124 Ponceau 4R
E129 Allura Red
E211 Sodium Benzoate

The first six are artificial colourings, the seventh is a preservative. The additives may be listed by E number or name.

Some of the main users of the suspect additives, based on data available on the http://www.actiononadditives.com/ database at 7th March 2008

Manufacturer Total products found Tartrazine (E102) Quinoline yellow (E104) Sunset yellow (E110) Carmoisine (E122) Ponceau 4R (E124) Allura red (E129) Sodium benzoate (E211)
Cadbury (confectionery) 37 3 13 6 9 3 16 0
KCB Group (baked goods) 30 29 0 20 1 7 0 0
Woolworths 23 1 13 8 18 1 8 0
Buzz Sweets 22 3 12 6 10 4 11 0
Ginni Enterprises Ltd (sweets) 21 5 13 13 6 6 7 0
Lidl supermarket 20 6 11 9 3 5 7 1
Swizzels Matlow (sweets) 19 0 12 13 8 13 5 0
Bobby's Foods Plc (sweets) 18 2 7 3 5 3 9 8
Hartley's Jelly 18 0 4 8 7 2 1 0
Haribo (sweets) 15 1 13 8 1 10 6 0
Coca Cola (beverages) 14 0 5 0 3 1 0 13
Tesco supermarket 13 5 3 1 2 1 1 3
Mars / Masterfoods 13 0 9 3 8 5 3 0

Zed Candy (sweets)
13 3 11 7 1 0 10 0
Morrisons supermarket 12 0 6 3 7 0 1 1
Wrigley chewing gum 7 3 1 1 0 0 4 0

 

For lots more information please use the free search facility on the online database at http://www.actiononadditives.com/

For further information contact Anna Glayzer on 020 7837 2250 or anna@actiononadditives.com

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