Consumer associations around Europe have joined the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) in calling for the European Commission to ban six synthetic food and beverage colourings suspected of being linked to hyperactivity in children.*
Members of the FSA Board, meeting in London on Thursday (10 April), urged the Commission to outlaw the six additives as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the agency wants food and beverage manufacturers to phase-out the colourants from their products on a voluntary basis.
Now BEUC, the European Consumers’ Organisation, has also called for a ban in a letter to European Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. The issue was due to be discussed today (Friday, 11 April) at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health, part of the EU Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General (DG SANCO).
Suspicions about the additives are largely based on an FSA-commissioned study conducted at the University of Southampton in England. Researchers reported that children showed signs of hyperactivity after consuming fruit drinks containing any of the six colourants: Sunset yellow (E110), Quinoline yellow (E104), Carmoisine (E122), Allura red (E129), Tartrazine (E102) and Ponceau 4R (E124).
Earlier this month, scientists with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) decided that the Southampton findings were not sufficiently conclusive to warrant an immediate ban on the colourants.
But BEUC Director General Monique Goyens said on Thursday: “It is unacceptable to leave on the market substances strongly suspected to increase hyperactivity in children, while having no added value at all except colouring food. The European Union must place the health of its most vulnerable consumers before any other interest.”
The letter to Commissioner Vassiliou was signed by BEUC and 41 other European organisations including consumer associations in Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Ireland and Bulgaria. Other signatories included Britain’s Royal Society of Health, the British Dental Health Foundation and Friends of the Earth Europe.
The letter said: “We, the undersigned 42 organisations from 12 member states, representing a wide range of consumer groups, food and health charities, and parents, call on the European Commissioner to employ the precautionary principle by suspending use of certain food colourings found to affect the activity and attention of children…
“We call on the European Health Commissioner, as risk manager, to take a decision in favour of precaution and consumer protection. Use of the six colours should be suspended, and manufacturers should continue to seek alternatives. This is in line with what consumers want, and with current market trends.”
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