Survey says some children's medicines contain a "cocktail of additives"

Researchers in Britain are warning that most medicines for babies and young children contain additives which are often banned from foods and drinks aimed at under-threes.

In a study by the Food Commission 41 medicines aimed at the under-threes were examined and it was found that only one was free of additives.

The Food Commission is an independent body campaigning for safer food in Britain.

The study which is published in the Commission's Food Magazine, said some of the medicines warned the additives could cause side effects.

However as the magazine points out no colours or sweeteners are allowed in foods and drinks for children under three, and most preservatives are banned.

The study found the medicines surveyed, aimed at babies and toddlers, contained a "cocktail of additives" and the researchers say it is time for medicine manufacturers to clean up their act and remove any which are unnecessary.

However according to the manufacturers their products are safe and it is only additives strictly necessary from a technological point of view and recognised as being without risk to the health of young children that are authorised in such foods.

The survey found four azo dye colourings, eight benzoate and two sulphite preservatives, along with six sweeteners, contained in the products examined.

Preservatives were found in all but 10, and sweeteners in all but four of the medicines surveyed and some carried warnings about the additives they contained and the harmful side-effects, which included irritation of the skin and eyes, stomach upset and diarrhoea.

Azo dyes are synthetic compounds used to produce a wide range of colours and research has found that although only mildly toxic the compounds have triggered to adverse reactions in people with aspirin allergy and asthma.

The Food Commission says colourings and artificial sweeteners could be replaced with natural alternatives and questions the need to use preservatives.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says the use of all additives in medicines had to be justified by the manufacturer before a licence was granted, but most medicines could not be manufactured, stored or administered without some additional ingredients.

The MHRA says medicines can be unstable, and preservatives and other additives are necessary to maintain product quality for a reasonable shelf-life.

The MHRA also says many medicines have a very unpleasant taste and require sweeteners and other flavours to help ensure palatability, especially for children, but unnecessary additives are discouraged and the manufacturer may be required to re-formulate the medicine before it can be approved.

Of 41 medicines surveyed only one, Superdrug's Children's Dry Cough Syrup, did not contain colourings or preservatives, while two, Morrisons Junior Paracetemol and Superdrug Junior Paracetemol Suspension, contained four different sweeteners.

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