Advice on health risks in food 'being ignored': Government shuns experts' views for harmony with EC rules
Thursday 03 June 1993
The Government has decided not to introduce a maximum limit for caffeine in soft drinks such as colas although a year ago it said it would do so because of the undesirable behavioural effects which some people, especially children, may experience after taking too much of these drinks. And mineral oils which carry a risk of cancer are still being used in foods although the Government was warned of the risk four years ago by the Food Advisory Committee.
Soft drinks which contain caffeine have the same stimulant effects as coffee - beneficial in restricted amounts but causing anxiety, agitation and sleeplessness if taken in excessive amounts. An adult may take five cups of average coffee per day, or about 12 caffeine soft drinks, before experiencing untoward symptoms.
The recommendation to limit caffeine in soft drinks made by the Food Advisory Committee and the Committee on Toxicology, was based on the calculation that some children would get excessive doses if their recommendation was exceeded. Some children may drink excessive amounts of cola because caffeine is mildly addictive. Drugs have an effect proportional to body size. Small children might be affected by two or three cans of soft drink, making them sleepless and difficult to control.
Nevertheless, the food minister, Nicholas Soames, has now asked the Food Advisory Committee to review its advice. Civil servants have advised him that there is no evidence that high levels of caffeine in soft drinks have adverse effects on children. The ministry points out that high caffeine drinks have occasionally been imported into Britain for sale at rave parties and no evidence of adverse effects have been recorded.
The single market would make it difficult for Britain to have a unilateral ban on high-caffeine soft drinks. It would be possible to request a derogation on health grounds but the ministry believes it would not be able to sustain the argument of its expert committee with the Europeans. At present eight EC countries have a limit of 150mgs per litre for caffeine in soft drinks while Germany has a limit of 250 mgs per litre. In Ireland, and now in Britain, there is no limit.
Other advice from expert committees aimed at reducing health risks of food and drink are now being ignored. Failure to ban mineral oils is in part the result of a new attitude of deregulation at the ministry.
Mineral oils are used for lubricating tins for baking bread, cakes and biscuits, and for lubricating dried fruit. A ban on use of mineral oils would have to be agreed with the EC where mineral oils are still permitted.
Eric Millstone, lecturer in Science Policy at the University of Sussex, said: 'The baking industry quickly went over to the use of vegetable oils when government was advised that use of mineral oils was no longer acceptable. But now that the advice has not been implemented the industry has gone back to mineral oils.
'The whole philosophy of MAFF is now deregulatory and the minister feels free to over-rule his expert committees on the advice of civil servants. It is irresponsible to allow the use of a suspected carcinogen in food when there are perfectly good alternatives and irresponsible to allow unlimited quantities of an addictive substance in drinks which are often given to quite young children.'
EC regulators are now able to over-rule British experts and take decisions about the additives permitted in British food. The Government has failed to introduce stringent controls on claims made for health foods, many of which have no scientific basis, as a result of EC pressure.
The Food Advisory Committee advised that controls should be brought in but the advice was rejected by the Government on the grounds that health claims may help consumers choose healthier diets. A spokesman said that a ban would have to be agreed with the EC.
Margaret Ashwell, who is science director of the British Nutrition Foundation and a member of the Food Advisory Committee, said: 'We are now generally subservient to Brussels and advice cannot be acted upon by ministers as before.'
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
The battle for control of Stieg Larsson's £30m legacy
French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
PAs cleared of fraud - and Nigella Lawson left reeling at 'ridiculous sideshow' of drug allegations and public dissection of her marriage to Charles Saatchi
Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
Paul Walker's daughter Meadow attends Justin Bieber Believe premiere
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 Bonuses for goals and top four finish as Luiz Suarez joins Premier League's top three earners
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 5 Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
- < Previous
- Next >
£25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: PHP Deve...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: This Big 4 giant is seeking ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have personal tax exp...
£22000 - £37000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: This se...