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Board discusses colours advice

Friday 11 April 2008

colours in bowl

The Food Standards Agency Board, at its April open meeting, discussed the possible effects of certain food colours on children's behaviour and agreed advice to Ministers to help inform the UK's negotiating position in Europe on this issue.

This discussion took place following the publication last September of research into these colours by Southampton University and in the light of the review of this work by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which was published in March.

The Board agreed to advise UK Ministers that there should be voluntary action by manufacturers in the UK to remove these colours by 2009. In addition, there should be action to phase them out in food and drink in the European Union (EU) over a specified period.

Dame Deirdre Hutton, Chair of 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 findings of the Southampton Study, to remove them from food and drink products. UK industry has already taken great strides to remove these colours from food; this decision builds on the work already done and will encourage industry to continue down this path.'

The Board also discussed the Agency's advice on this issue. At present, Agency advice is:

Parents of children showing signs of hyperactivity are advised that cutting certain artificial colours from their diets might have some beneficial effects. These colours are:

Food Standards Agency Chief Scientist, Andrew Wadge, said: 'This advice is proportionate and based on the best available science. However, we need to remember that there are many factors associated with hyperactive behaviour in children other than diet. These are thought to include genetic factors, being born prematurely, or environment and upbringing.'

The Board requested that advice to parents is simplified and strengthened as much as possible, and the Agency updates its advice in the light of the Board's discussion.

The preservative sodium benzoate was also used in the Southampton study. Use of sodium benzoate is mainly restricted to soft drinks. The Board decided that advice to Ministers and consumers should focus on the colours used in the study, as the primary function of sodium benzoate is as a preservative.

Today's Board decision does not mean that there is an immediate ban on the use of the six colours in food and drink products. The FSA is recommending to UK Ministers that industry takes voluntary action to remove these colours by 2009 and is pressing for action at EU level.

Once the FSA has given its advice, UK Ministers will discuss this with other Government departments. These discussions will inform the UK’s negotiating position in Europe on this issue.

View the discussion

The Board's discussions can be seen online as video on demand.

April 2008 Board Meeting

(External) select this link for the Board meeting video-on-demand

(External) select this link to download Windows Media Player

Related links

COT statement investigating the mixtures of certain artificial food colours and a preservative on behaviour in children FSA 08/04/04 - Food Additives and Hyperactivity (Annexe 1)

Download pdf  (pdf 426KB) FSA 08/04/04 - Food Additives and Hyperactivity (Annexe 5)

Download pdf  (pdf 103KB) FSA 08/04/04 - Food Additives and Hyperactivity (includes Annexes 2,3,4 and 6)

Download pdf  (pdf 134KB)

External links   The Food Standards Agency has no responsibility for the content of external websites

(External) EFSA opinion on Southampton study on food additives and children's behaviour

More advice from our eatwell website

(External) Understanding E numbers

See also

(External) Action on additives See a list of foods and drinks that contain the six colours on the campaign website COT statement investigating the mixtures of certain artificial food colours and a preservative on behaviour in children (External) EFSA response to Southampton study Read the 6 September 2007 EFSA press release Food additives and children's behaviour Read about the qualitative research T07040: Chronic and acute effects of artificial colours and preservatives on children's behaviour More about the research (External) Get Adobe Acrobat reader You may need the free Acrobat Reader to view a pdf

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