The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has called on food manufacturers to come forward if they wish their company or brands to be included in a list of those that are free from the so-called ‘Southampton six’ colours.
The move follows the FSA’s decision to back a voluntary phase-out of the colours by the end of 2009, following a study which observed a link between their consumption and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. The research was carried out at the University of Southampton and published in The Lancet in September 2007.
However, the FSA said that it would not publish a list of individual products, but would provide “general information that will help consumers identify quickly whether a product they use is likely to contain these colours.” It plans to publish a list of brands and companies on its website and to update it as new information is provided.
Even after this information becomes available, the FSA has advised consumers who are particularly concerned about the presence of these colours to continue to check labels. It said that this is especially important in the case of products with a long shelf life “where the availability of reformulated products may vary.”
From a European perspective, MEPs voted in July that products containing the colours should carry the warning: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
This decision has been criticised, however, as the scientific opinion of the European Food Safety Authority had originally concluded that the Southampton study gave no basis for changing acceptable daily intakes of the additives. This was largely because the 297 children who took part in the trial were given cocktails of additives, making it impossible to ascertain which were responsible for the perceived hyperactivity effect.
Last month, UK ministers supported an FSA proposal to phase out Sunset Yellow FCF (E110), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Carmoisine (E122), Allura Red (E129), Tartrazine (E102) and Ponceau 4R (E124) by the end of 2009.
Action on Additives, a campaign coordinated by the Food Commission, already publishes an online list of products which do contain the six colours, as well as sodium benzoate, a preservative involved in the Southampton study.