Food manufacturers say they will continue to remove artificial additives, despite a review finding
little evidence to link them with adverse effects on children's health or behaviour.
The European Food Safety Authority concluded this week that the six food colourings and a preservative that were highlighted in a Southampton University study did not pose a significant risk.
There was "limited evidence" that the mixtures of additives tested had a small effect on the activity and attention of some children, said EFSA's specialist food additives and flavourings panel. The Southampton study should not be used as a basis for changing recommended levels or banning the additives, it added. The study, details of which were first revealed by The Grocer last May, linked the additives to hyperactivity and breathing problems in children.
Following its publication, pressure groups such as Which? and the Food Commission called on companies to step up their reformulation strategies as a matter of urgency.
Only last week the Food Commission criticised companies such as Cadbury for being slow to remove artificial additives. "We do not need them in our food and we would urge the government to pursue a ban," said a spokeswoman.
However, the Food and Drink Federation insisted the industry was working hard to get rid of additives and would continue to do so. "The UK food and drink manufacturing industry has been responding to consumers' demands for fewer artificial additives," said Julian Hunt, director of communications. "There is now a wide range of food and drinks on supermarket shelves that contain no artificial colours."
Meanwhile, the EFSA is continuing to evaluate the safety of food colours authorised in the EU. Its recommendations on some colours, including the six in the Southampton study, are expected to be adopted by the end of the year.