26 November 2007

Should food additives be banned?

A major British study has showed that certain food additives can cause hyperactivity in children. While this has caused an outcry in Europe, South African authorities remain mum.

Recent media reports have featured articles on the reaction in Britain and the European Union to a study conducted at the University of Southampton which showed that certain food additives can cause hyperactivity in children.

The Southampton study
A team of researchers from the School of Psychology of the University of Southampton published a paper this year on 'Food additives and hyperactive behaviour' (McCann et al, 2007).

This is one of the first well-controlled studies using what is called a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled design to investigate how food additives influence childhood behaviour.

Implicated additives
According to a statement issued by the Food Standards Agency in Britain, parents are being advised to avoid giving their children foods that contain the following colourants:

  • Sunset yellow (E110)
  • Quinoline yellow (E104)
  • Carmoisine (E122)
  • Allura red (E129)
  • Tartrazine (E102)
  • Ponceau (E124)

  • Sodium benzoate

UK reaction
The Food Standards Agency of the UK has immediately reacted to the findings of the Southampton Study by holding a meeting with representative of public interest groups and the British food industry to discuss what steps should and will be taken to address the potentially harmful effect of artificial colours and sodium benzoate on childhood behaviour. and do a search using 'artificial colours' as your search terms.

EU reaction
The European Union has also reacted proactively to the findings and a meeting of the EU Food Safety Authority Additives Panel was already held this Thursday.

The South African situation
As far as I know, no move is currently being made in our country to address this newly identified problem. I sincerely hope that our government organisations and food manufacturers will also take the findings of the Southampton Study to heart and do something about this potential problem.

26 November 2007

(McCann D et al (2007). Food additives & hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet, 370(9598): 1560-7; Pretoria News (2007). Call for ban on harmful food additive. Pretoria News, Nov 23, 2007, p 17;;

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