AFGC says calls for artificial colour bans are based on “flawed research”

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 9th September 2008

The Australian Food and Grocery Council, Australia’s peak food and grocery manufacturing industry association, has said that calls from the NSW Greens for the banning of a number of food additives are based on flawed research and not on sound science.

A “Kids First Campaign” – a combined initiative of Additive Alert, FIN and Additive Education – was launched yesterday and they are leading the calls for FSANZ to ban the colours in Australia.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said that while a one-off study by Southampton University implied that there may be a link between a number of food additives and childhood behavioural disorders, a subsequent review of the research had dismissed the findings. “In March 2008, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that claims made by Southampton University that certain food colour additives resulted in increased instances of hyperactivity in children were weak,” she noted.

The AFGC highlighted that findings from the EFSA report included:

“The Panel concludes that the McCann et al. study provides limited evidence that the two different mixtures of synthetic colours and sodium benzoate tested had a small and statistically significant effect on activity and attention in children…”

– And –

“…The Panel concludes that the findings of the study cannot be used as a basis for altering the ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) of the respective food colours or sodium benzoate.”

“The European Food Safety Authority’s findings demonstrate the Greens’ concerns are ultimately unjustified,” Ms Carnell suggested. “Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has since backed up the European regulator’s findings.”

“The food industry is continuing to respond positively to all diet related health concerns and looks forward to continuing to work with governments, parents and health professionals to address this very important issue through the promotion of healthier eating habits and increased consumer education,” Ms Carnell concluded.

A phase out of six food colours is to be completed in the UK, with the European Parliament recently voting in favour of labelling foods containing the six colours (E110, E104, E122, E129, E102 and E124) with the words “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”. A ban on the colours is not currently planned in Europe due to their belief that the Southampton findings did not prove a causal relationship.