Chocolates still contain additives linked to hyperactivity

Cadbury's creme Eggs and other sweets still contain artificial colours linked to hyperactivity a year after the Food Standards Agency called for manufacturers to remove them from all products, it emerged yesterday.

The Food Commission, an independent group of health campaigners, found the controversial E-number additives in Creme Eggs, Mini Eggs, Roses and six other Cadbury products as well as two made by Mars: Revels and Starburst Choozers.

In September 2007, Southampton University published FSA-funded research which found primary school children who consumed seven E-number additives – six colours and one preservative – were more likely to exhibit hyperactive behaviour and have difficulty concentrating.

In April 2008, the FSA called for manufacturers to remove specific additives, including food colours such as sunset yellow and tartrazine, by the end of 2009.

Last April Cadbury reiterated a promise made two years ago to remove the colours from sweets following the FSA's decision to pursue a "voluntary ban". Mars pledged in September 2007 to remove all artificial colours from several ranges including Starburst by the end of that year.

Now the Food Commission has accused Mars and Cadbury of breaching their own commitments.

Researchers found sunset yellow (E110) in Cadbury's Creme Egg and Roses, and two suspect orange and red colours in its multi-coloured Mini Eggs, as well as several other products. Revels, made by Mars, contained three of the colours – quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122) and ponceau 4R (E124), while Starburst Choozers contained E104 and E122.

Nestle, the UK's other large confectionery producer, has not used any of the colours for two years.

"To make these pledges at times of high media attention and then quietly neglect them is simply cynical PR opportunism," said a Food Commission spokeswoman, Anna Glayzer.

Cadbury said it would remove all remaining colours in "coming months". It said the Food Commission misunderstood its promise, which related to sweets not chocolate. "We achieved our goal of removing all artificial colours from our sweets by the end of last year as promised," a spokesman said. "There are a small number of chocolate products ... that presented difficult technical challenges. We have resolved these and, as of this month, no Creme or Mini Creme Eggs leaving our factories contain artificial colours."

Mars said it understood public concern. "By the end of 2008, all of the seven additives were removed from all of our chocolate products, except Minstrels and Revels which we are working to achieve by the end of 2009," it said.

An FSA spokesman said the agency is confident the voluntary approach is working.