The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has called for a European Union ban on six artificial food and beverage colourings linked with hyperactivity in children by a recent academic study.
When the study was published in September last year, the FSA initially advised parents of hyperactive children to avoid giving them food or drink containing any of the colourants. The agency also forwarded the study findings for further consideration by the EU’s European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
In April, EFSA’s special review panel on food and beverage additives conceded that the study provided “limited evidence” that the additives “had a small effect on the activity and attention of some children.” However, the European experts – who are already carrying out a general review of additives – said the UK study was not conclusive enough to justify an immediate change in EU regulations.
Now the FSA, which was criticised for not taking firmer action in September, is pushing for manufacturers to phase out the “suspect” colourants on a voluntary basis by next year, in advance of a total ban by the EU.
Dame Deirdre Hutton*
During an FSA Board meeting in London on Thursday (April 10), Chairwoman Dame Deirdre Hutton said: “The evidence we have suggests it would be sensible for these [colourings] to be taken out of food. We would like to see the use of colours phased out over a period. That does require mandatory action by the EU.”
Board members said a voluntary phasing-out was necessary because it could take years for any EU legislation to come into effect.
In the FSA-commissioned study at Southampton University in England, 137 children aged three years and 130 children aged from eight to nine years were given a juice drink containing the common preservative sodium benzoate and a combination of colourants: Sunset yellow (E110), Quinoline yellow (E104), Carmoisine (E122), Allura red (E129), Tartrazine (E102) and Ponceau 4R (E124).
The Southampton researchers reported that both groups of children showed signs of hyperactivity after consuming the drink with additives, but not after consuming a placebo drink.
Sodium benzoate and one or more of the six colourants are used in some soft drinks as well as many food products. But although the FSA believes all the colourants should be eliminated, it has not called for a similar ban on sodium benzoate.
British Soft Drinks Association
**The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) commented: “Soft drinks manufacturers have for some time been actively responding to the public’s increasing desire for more ‘natural’ ingredients. A wide variety of beverages are now available to meet this need, and innovation in this area is ongoing.
“A very small minority of soft drinks manufactured in the UK include the colours highlighted in the Southampton University study. Reformulation is continuing, and we are committed to finding alternatives to these colours where possible.
“We look forward to working with the FSA and other industry bodies to ensure that the public can continue to choose from a wide range of products and enjoy them with confidence.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019
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