Artificial colours debate heats up with calls for a ban on six food additives

Posted by Isobel Drake on 8th September 2008

The issue of artificial food colours is about to be drawn out into the public forum in Australia, with a call for a phase out of six artificial colours.

The Food Intolerance Network (FIN) is to send a letter today to FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand), which will call for a ban on six additives [sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129), tartrazine (E102) and ponceau 4R (E124)]. The colours are used in a diverse range of food and have previously been linked to hyperactivity in children.

The FIN has managed to garner the support of “over 100 influential health professionals, educators, food manufacturers and children support service providers” as part of the “Kids First Campaign” – a combined initiative of Additive Alert, FIN and Additive Education which will be launched on Today Tonight this evening. Additive Alert claim that “at least 60 food additives” of those approved for use in Australia (300+) are “at best questionable in terms of safety”.

The issue has been prominent in Europe this year, with the UK Food Standards Agency encouraging manufacturers to find alternatives to the additives and advocating a phase out, while the EU passed legislation to improve labelling. The decisions were largely based on the “Southampton Study”, which found that a mix of one of the six previously mentioned food additives with the preservative sodium benzoate could lead to increased hyperactivity in children. The strength of the study has since been questioned.

In July, the European Parliament voted in favour of labelling foods containing the six food colours E110, E104, E122, E129, E102 and E124 with the words “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”.

FSANZ has looked into the UK study but believes the use of food additives in Australia is different and, as a result, the study isn’t particularly relevant. “A study we’ve done this year has found the levels of these colours in Australian food is much less than is used in the UK study,” Lydia Buchtman from FSANZ told ABC Online.

More information about the details of the Southampton Study can be found at: