Food agency calls for ban on six artificial colours

Food regulators moved to ban artificial additives from hundreds of products yesterday, three decades after parents began complaining that their children suffered mood swings after consuming brightly coloured sweets, cakes and drinks.

The Food Standards Agency recommended ministers call for manufacturers to remove six artificial colours by the end of 2009 and lobby for a European Union-wide ban. The FSA's advice to parents will be strengthened to warn them about the dangers of the E-numbers tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E104), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and allura red (E129).

These colours and the preservative sodium benzoate (E211) were linked to hyperactivity in a £750,000 study by Southampton University, which found they made primary school children become distracted and fail a computer attention test.

The researchers estimated that 30 per cent of cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) would be prevented if companies removed the colours used in the £13bn-a-year global additives industry.

The decision means the country's biggest confectioners and supermarkets, such as Cadbury and Haribo, will have to reformulate hundreds of products including ice cream, sweets, milkshakes and fizzy drinks.

Some products for which replacements have not yet been found – mushy peas, Turkish delight, and battenberg and angel cakes – may be taken off the shelves temporarily or permanently. The Southampton researchers had warned the seven additives were as harmful as lead in petrol, which was banned after it proved to lower children's IQ by five points. Their research, in The Lancet in September, was the evidence that artificial additives worsened the behaviour of normal children as well as those diagnosed with ADHD.

The European Food Standards Agency dismissed calls for action on the additives last month but at a meeting in London yesterday, the FSA's board decided to back the most stringent of five options recommended by officials.

Dame Deirdre Hutton, who chairs the Food Standards Agency, said: "It is the agency's duty to put consumers first. These additives give colour to foods but nothing else. It would therefore be sensible, in the light of the... study, to remove them."

The board decided to take no action on sodium benzoate because it was "a preservative" rather than a colour. E211, which is linked with other potential health problems, is found in many soft drinks including Diet Coke, Irn-Bru, Lucozade and Fanta, and its removal would pose a significant technological and financial challenge to drinks companies.

The FSA stressed that its decision "does not mean there is an immediate ban".

Campaigners welcomed the first decisive move in the UK against additives, whose effect on hyperactive children were first identified in 1975. Richard Watts, of the Children's Food Campaign, said: "This decision is good news for children and parents, who have known for many years that these additives affect children's behaviour." Anna Glayzer, an Action on Additives campaigner, said the FSA had put the consumer first. "We will be keeping a close eye on the industry to see what effect the voluntary ban has."

The Food and Drink Federation said the recommendation was "bizarre", as manufacturers were already removing the additives. "[Most] products don't contain these colours," a statement said.

The six colourings facing a ban

Tartrazine (E102)

Description: Synthetic yellow dye found in sweets, biscuits, mushy peas

Products: Disney Winnie the Pooh Cake Kit, Lidl orange jelly, Bacardi Breezer tropical lime, Asda mushy peas

Health effects: causes hyperactivity, linked to allergic reactions and migraine.

Quinoline Yellow (E104)

Description: Synthetic dye in sweets, pickles, smoked fish

Products: Aero orange, Galaxy Minstrels, M&Ms, Bassett's Sherbet Lemons

Health effects: Causes hyperactivity and is linked to rashes. Banned in US.

Sunset Yellow (E110)

Description: synthetic yellowdye found in sweets, ice cream, fizzy drinks

Products: Cadbury Creme Egg, Haribo Jelly Beans, Irn-Bru

Health effects: causes hyperactivity and linked to stomach upsets and swelling of skin.

Carmoisine (E122)

Description: Synthetic red dye found in ready meals, sweets

Products: Love Hearts, Galaxy Minstrels, Cadbury Mini Eggs, various lollipops

Health effects: causes hyperactivity and is alleged to cause water retention in those allergic to aspirin. Banned in US.

Ponceau 4R (E124)

Description: synthetic red dye found in sweets, biscuits, drinks

Products: Bassett's Pear Drops, Halls Blackcurrant Soothers, Supercook Alphabet Icing

Health effects: causes hyperactivity and is believed to cause problems for asthmatics. Banned in US.

Allura red (E129)

Description: synthetic red dye found in sweets, soft drinks, Turkish delight

Products: Fry's Turkish Delight, Cadbury Mini Eggs, Maynards Wine Gums

Health effects: causes hyperactivity and may bring on allergic reactions.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue