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Ban the use of artificial food additives in children’s food and drinks?

Media Release; Ban the use of artificial food additives in children’s food and drinks?

A PRESS RELEASE in April by our parent organisation ISDE called for a total ban on the use of artificial food additives in children’s food and drinks. It said:

Recently published research in the Lancet [1] has shown conclusively that certain artificial colourants and flavourings can induce behavioural changes in children consuming them. Professor Vyvyan Howard of the University of Ulster, President of ISDE and an internationally recognised toxicologist, said “The UK FSA is to be congratulated on acting on the results of Professor Stephenson’s research by asking for the EU-wide banning of six food colourants from infant foods. These chemicals have no nutritional value. A number of the colourants are in fact aniline dyes made from coal tar. ISDE supports Professor Stephenson’s recent statement calling for the removal of these additives in foods destined for consumption by children but ISDE feels that this is an opportunity to examine the whole topic of food additives in children’s food. On a purely precautionary basis they should be discontinued. We personally don’t feed any of these to our 2 year old daughter, Hannah”.

The EU has acted previously with precaution with respect to infant food. The EU Weaning Directive stipulates that commercial foods prepared for infants under the age of one year must not contain artificial additives and must have extremely low levels of pesticides (< 50 ppb). ISDE calls upon decision makers in food regulation to extend this sensible approach and take urgent steps to ban the use of these additive chemicals in children’s foods. The type of additives that are being identified by IDSE include the following:

Colourants – Brilliant Blue FCF, Quinoline Yellow, Sunset Yellow, Tartrazine, Yellow 2G, Cochineal, Carmoisine, Amaranth, Ponceau 4R, Erythrosine, Red 2G, Allura Red, Patent Blue V, Indigo, Carmine, Green S, Black PN, Brown FK, Brown HT, Pigment Rubine
Flavourings – aspartame, sucralose, monosodium glutmate
Supplementary information

Vyvyan Howard is a medically qualified toxico-pathologist, who headed the Developmental Toxico-Pathology Research Group at the University of Liverpool until his recent appointment as Professor of Bioimaging at the University of Ulster at Coleraine. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and he has held the Presidencies of the Royal Microscopical Society and the International Society for Stereology. In 2003, he was appointed a member of the UK Government’s Advisory Committee on Pesticides. He is currently the President of ISDE. He was a member of the ad hoc working party formed by the UK Foods Standards Agency to consider improvements in the design of the first study performed by Prof Stephenson’s research group.

One of his main areas of research has been on fetal and infant growth and the negative effects associated with toxic substances. He has developed methods of objectively quantitating minimal toxicological change. Through this work, he has become concerned about the potentially synergistic effects of the mixtures of pollutants to which we are all daily exposed; and the inadequacy of classical toxicology and risk assessment techniques to address the problems of accurately predicting the potential health effects of chronic low dose exposure to these mixtures of chemicals, many of which have their maximal impact upon the developing fetus. Professor Howard’s research group has conducted its own research into mixtures of food additives and demonstrated that they can have a toxicity which is more than simply additive [2].

ISDE (www.isde.org) is an NGO representing some 30,000 medical doctors worldwide who are concerned in the effect of the environment on health. It is recognized by the World Health Organization and the United Nations and has a seat on a number of their committees.

[1] Donna McCann, Angelina Barrett, Alison Cooper, Debbie Crumpler, Lindy Dalen, Kate Grimshaw, Elizabeth Kitchin, Kris Lok, Lucy Porteous, Emily Prince, Edmund Sonuga-Barke, John O Warner, Jim Stevenson. (2007). Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61306-3

[2] Lau K, McLean WG, Williams DP, and Howard CV. (2006). Synergistic interactions between commonly used food additives in a developmental neurotoxicity test. Toxicological Sciences.90: 178-187.

In response to this David Strong member of DEA Management Committee and paediatrician writes

“With regard to Food Additives, I have gone through the references and reread around the topic.  Unfortunately there is by no means clear evidence-based justification for community wide restriction, but I agree that from the precautionary principle it would be a good thing if no children had access to substances that we aren’t sure are safe, nor substances that we know can have deleterious effects on subsets of the population. 

  I feel that the issue is worthy of a clear, but carefully worded, endorsement on our websites, possibly pointing readers to the editorial comments in Lancet (The Lancet 2004; 364:823-824 and 2007; 370:1524-1525) following the two main recent published research trials”. The latter editorial states

“Overall, McCann and colleagues have shown that 3-year-old and 8–9-year-old children might have signs of hyperactivity when on a diet containing usual amounts of colouring and additives. What practical implications does this have for the community? Physicians taking care of children with hyperactivity could advise parents who wish to do so to start an elimination trial of artificial colourings and additives. Complete restriction is not warranted according to McCann’s results. Only some hyperactive children will respond favourably to such a trial, and further research might highlight subgroups of individuals particularly susceptible to colouring and additives. Elimination measures should then focus on these children”.