The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published a list of food products that have been voluntarily reformulated to remove six food colours associated with hyperactivity in young children.
The colours have been in the spotlight since last year, when the so-called Southampton study identified the behavioural link.
At the end of last year, UK ministers backed a voluntary ban proposed by the FSA to phase out Tartrazine (E102), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Sunset Yellow (E110), Carmoisine (E122), Ponceau 4R (E124) and Allura Red (E129) from food products by 2009, in parallel with action at an EU level.
The FSA yesterday published a list of product ranges from manufacturers, caterers and retailers that have informed the agency of reformulation. The agency said it is publicizing the product ranges in order to encourage further action by industry.
Packaged food product lines free from the colours include:
· Worldfoods products from the Asian Asset Group
· Green Bay products from Green Bay
· Heinz, Weight Watchers from Heinz, HP, Lea & Perrins, manufactured by Heinz
· Vimto drinks, Panda drinks, Sunkist drinks from Vimto Soft Drinks
In addition, retailers that have produced own range product lines free from the colours include Asda, Iceland, Marks & Spencer and Tesco.
On the restaurant side, McDonald’s has said it is complying with the voluntary ban.
The swell of resistance to additives puts food manufacturers in the spotlight if they remove the colours from products in some colours but do not take parallel action in others, either because regulations do not require them to or because there is not the same level of consumer pressure.
For instance, Nestle has removed all artificial colours from its Smarties confectionery products in the UK – a move that was not without its challenges as it was some time before spirulina was identified as a suitable source of natural blue. In the meantime, once-blue Smarties were white.
On a European level, the Southampton colours have attracted considerable attention from MEPs, who voted in July for products containing the colours to be labelled "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children".
Some industry commentators have called the labelling, which will be mandatory in 18 months, a de facto ban since no marketer would use such wording on products for children.
In the UK, FSA chief executive Tim Smith sent a letter to stakeholders dated 12 November 2008, saying ministers had agreed on the approach proposed, “on the basis that the FSA a takes proportionate and targeted approach to the issue, including flexibility around the products covered and target dates”.
Ministers also said the FSA should work with food manufacturers and retailers who are unable to meet the deadline of end-2009.
FSA yesterday said food manufacturers wishing to notify the agency that their brands or products are free of these colours should contact it with the details.