Even the UK government has discovered what we all have known for the longest time - that food additives can make our children hyperactive. So how much longer can the UK drag its heels in the international community and continue to allow ‘E numbers’ in our food?
Most of the artificial flavourings and colourants itemised in the latest research are already banned in one or more other countries, and the UK stands alone in banning virtually none of them.
The embarrassment for the UK is that it’s a government-commissioned study, carried out by the Asthma and Allergy Research Centre, that has provided the proof.
The study, involving 277 three-year-olds from the Isle of Wight, showed that up to 25 per cent of children had temper tantrums or behaved badly after consuming food and drink containing additives. The children drank fruit juice containing 20 mg of artificial colourings and 45 mg of preservative for two weeks. They then switched to a placebo drink, which had no additives.
Parents reported a marked difference in their children’s behaviour after switching drinks.
The researchers concluded that 'significant changes in children’s hyperactive behaviour could be produced by the removal of colourings and additives from their diet'.
Following on from this, the Food Commission says it has identified 200 children’s food and drink that contain one or more of the additives examined by the researchers.
The additives tested were the food colourings tartrazine (E102), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and the preservative sodium benzoate (E211), found in sweets and snacks such as Jammie Dodgers and Smarties, and in Irn Bru and Tizer drinks.
E102 can provoke asthma attacks and nettle rash in children, and is banned in Norway and Austria. E110 is associated with rhinitis, nausea and abdominal pain, and is banned in Norway. E122 is also linked with asthma, and is banned in Sweden, the USA, Australia and Norway. E124 triggers asthma attacks, and is banned in the USA and Norway. E211 is linked to asthma attacks and nettle rash, but has yet to be banned in any country.
Even though the evidence appears overwhelming, UK food agencies remain non-committal. The Food and Drink Federation says the evidence is inconclusive, a view that is shared by the Food Standards Agency.
The chances of an early ban remain remote.