Synthetic colouring and preservatives linked to hyperactivity in kids

Following the results of new research by the Food Standards Agency in Britain, parents are being told to avoid artificial colours commonly found in sweets and soft drinks.

The new government funded research is suggesting another link between the additives and hyperactivity, restlessness and tantrums and there is concern over their effect on children's behaviour.

Researchers analysed the effect of seven synthetic colourings and preservatives found in dozens of products and found that children consuming drinks with colourings were more likely to suffer from tantrums and become restless.

Many of the additives tested are already banned in other countries including America and Japan as well as some leading supermarkets in the UK.

The conclusions are expected to support earlier findings of another government-sponsored study that found children's behaviour worsened the more they were exposed to the additives with some children suffering from allergic reactions.

Health experts are now calling for a complete ban of the substances which Ian Tokelove, a spokesman for the Food Commission, an independent watchdog, says are unnecessary from a nutritional point of view but are there to make food more colourful or change the flavour.

Mr. Tokelove says studies have already shown they have an effect on children's behaviour and we would all be better off without them.

Other experts also believe the additives, which are often in cheap food that is high in fat, sugar and salt, are unnecessary but say parents on low incomes allow their children to have it because it does a good job in temporarily filling them up.

Researchers at Southampton University tested seven synthetic colourings and preservatives.

The colours, tested on three-year-olds and eight- to nine-year-olds, are tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129). The preservative sodium benzoate (E211) was also tested.

On March 20, the FSA's committee for toxicity of chemicals in food considered the findings in a closed meeting and noted they were of "public health importance" but has yet to publish the report.

Experts fear the findings may not be released for up to two more years but sources at the university have confirmed that the latest findings support those made in 2002, raising concerns over their continued use.

Some food chains have already banned three of the E-numbers included in the Southampton study from its own-brand foods, including tartrazine, which has been linked to allergies and hyperactivity.

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