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Ban Six Food Colourings, Say European Consumer Organisations
[Rachel's Introduction: "We, the undersigned 42 organisations from 12 member states representing a wide range of consumer groups, food and health charities, and parents, call on the European Commissioner to employ the precautionary principle by suspending use of certain food colourings found to affect the activity and attention of children."]
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Recent UK research has showed a link between six food colourings and hyperactivity in some children. Despite these indings and agreement on the fact that there are strong grounds to suggest that these additives affect children's behaviour, no action is foreseen at EU level to remove these substances from food.

On 11 April, national experts are meeting to discuss this issue at the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health, part of the EU Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General (DG SANCO).

BEUC, together with 41 other organisations of public interest, have written a letter (in annex below) to Commissioner Vassiliou calling for a mandatory ban of the six colourings.

Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC stated: "It is unacceptable to leave on the market substances strongly suspected to increase hyperactivity in children while having no added value at all except colouring food. The European Union must place the health of its most vulnerable consumers before any other interest."


Joint Statement to Mrs Androulla Vassiliou, European Health Commissioner

We, the undersigned 42 organisations from 12 member states representing a wide range of consumer groups, food and health charities, and parents, call on the European Commissioner to employ the precautionary principle by suspending use of certain food colourings found to affect the activity and attention of children.

We ask, where there is uncertainty surrounding the safety of a purely cosmetic food ingredient, what possible purpose is served by its continued presence in our food? The European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) recently published opinion on the UK Food Standards Agency's (FSA) "Southampton Study" acknowledged that mixtures including the six colourings and one preservative in question had an effect on children's behaviour, yet recommended no reduction in the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). In doing so, The EFSA gave greater weight to the need to prove a substance 'harmful beyond any doubt' before removing it, than to the need to prove it harmless in order to allow its use. We find the EFSA conclusion, that the Southampton Study gives no grounds for a reduction of the ADI for these ingredients, deeply disconcerting.

We call on the European Health Commissioner, as risk manager, to take a decision in favour of precaution and consumer protection. Use of the six colours should be suspended, and manufacturers should continue to seek alternatives. This is in line with what consumers want, and with current market trends.

It is our view that:

There are risks but no benefits

Risk: The Southampton Study gives strong grounds to suggest that there is an appreciable risk associated with these additives, even at a much lower level than current ADIs allow for. That the Southampton study found any effect of dyes on behaviour was remarkable because a number of factors acted to decrease that effect. The subjects were children in two age groups (3-years and 8-9 year olds) in the general population, but excluded the most sensitive individuals: children being treated for ADHD.

EFSA recognised that doses used in the study were realistic. Though toxicology studies normally give exaggerated doses of the test chemicals, the Southampton Study used doses that only constituted between 2.5 and 20% of the ADI and still found an effect. The ADI should represent a level that can be ingested, even by sensitive individuals, over a lifetime without an appreciable health risk. In the UK, The Food Commission's identification of 1020 retail products containing one or more of the additives in question, suggests that many children may consume much more dye than was used in the study.

Benefit: On the other hand the dyes serve no purpose but to colour food. Other food colours are available, and it is possible to omit food colouring additives completely, as in organic food. Thus, we see no benefit to the continued use of these colours.

Consumers do not support the continued use of the food colours

In a March 2008 survey conducted by the Danish Consumer Council, just 2.7% of 1055 people surveyed agreed with the statement; "Authorities should not do anything more. As long as there is only a suspicion about the effect on sensitive children, this is not something that society should spend money investigating."

EFSA's recommendation therefore, that nothing be done, does not have strong support among Danish consumers. Similarly, an internet survey undertaken by Netmums of more than 1000 parents in the UK found that 87% wanted the additives from the Southampton Study removed from food, and that 98% were worried about the impact these additives have on their children's health and behaviour.

Industry is already acting, but regulators are lagging behind The dyes featured in the Southampton Study are added to foods for purely cosmetic purposes. In response to consumer demand, manufacturers in many countries have started to reformulate products to exclude these dyes. For instance, at least 21 manufacturers in the UK and 45 manufacturers and retailers in Denmark, have recently indicated that they are working on, or intend to start working on re-formulations. This confirms that th dyes are not essential, and that manufacturers recognise that consumers do not want them in their food.

In conclusion, we cannot see any reason for continuing to use these food colourings in our food. There is, in fact, a strong case to argue that there is risk involved in doing so. The European Government has a responsibility to place the health of the consumer at the forefront of food policy, and to safeguard the wellbeing of children. To do nothing would seriously fail European consumers, and fall short of fulfilling the stated purpose for which the EFSA was initially formed.

'EFSA was created as part of a comprehensive programme to improve EU food safety, ensure a high level of consumer protection and restore and maintain confidence in the EU food supply.'

EFSA website


The six food colourings which, along with the preservative E211 Sodium Benzoate, were featured in the Southampton Study:

E102 Tartrazine

E104 Quinoline Yellow

E110 Sunset Yellow

E122 Carmoisine "

E124 Ponceau 4R

E129 Allura Red


Aado Luik Director, Tallinn Consumer Advice and Information Centre, Estonia

Aisling Murtagh Food and Health Researcher, Consumers' Association of Ireland Alar Tamm Director, Estonian Union for Child Welfare, Estonia

Alison Gehring Senior Policy Officer, The Royal Society of Health, UK

Anna Glayzer Co-ordinator, Action on Additives Campaign, UK

Annika Marniemi Food Officer, The Finnish Consumers' Association, Finland

Asen Nenov Bulgarian National Consumers Association, Bulgaria

Bengt Ingerstam The Swedish Consumer Coalition, Sweden

Bente Hessellund Andersen NOAH -- Friends of the Earth, Denmark

Brynhildur Petursdottir Neytendasamtokin, Consumer Association of Iceland

Camilla Udsen Senior Food Adviser, Danish Consumer Council, Denmark

Cathy Court Director, Netmums, UK

Charlotte Jeavons Chair, National Oral Health Promotion Group (NOHPG), UK

Christian Ege Chairman, The Ecological Council, Denmark

Conchy Martin Rey International Relations Director, CECU (Confederacion de Consumidores y Usuarios), Spain

David Smith Policy Adviser, Welsh Food Alliance, UK

Domolki Livia National Association for Consumer Protection in Hungary

Dr Helen Crawley Science Director, The Caroline Walker Trust, UK

Dr Nigel L Carter BDS LDC (RCS) Chief Executive, British Dental Health Foundation, UK

Dr Tim Lobstein Childhood Coordinator, International Obesity Task Force, UK

Eleni Alevritou President, EKPIZO, Greece

Emma Hockridge Campaigner, the Soil Association, UK

Fiona Bird Founder, Stirrin'Stuff, Scotland, UK

Ghita Parry Danish Diet & Nutrition Association, Denmark

Ilse Friis Madsen Naestformand, Landsorganisationen Gron Hverdag

Jan Bertoft Secretary General, Swedish Consumers' Association, Sweden

Jessica Mitchell Director, The Food Commission, UK

Klaus Melvin Jensen Campaign manager, Active Consumers (Aktive Forbrugere), Denmark

Linda L��nesaar Director General, Eesti Tarbijakaitse Liit (ETL)

Lizzie Vann Trustee, The Organix Foundation, UK

Magda Stoczkiewicz Director, Friends of the Earth Europe

Mare Abner Chairwoman, Estonian Disabled Women Society, Estonia

Monique Goyens Director General, BEUC- The European Consumers Association

Patti Rundall, OBE Policy Director, Baby Milk Action, UK

Pia Valota Co-ordinator, ASECO Alliance of Social and Ecological Consumer Organisations


ACU Associazione Consumatori Utenti, Italy

Prof Erik Millstone Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex, UK

Richard Watts Children's Food Campaign Director, UK

Sally Bunday MBE Founder /Director, Hyperactive Children's Support Group (HACSG), UK

Steve Nash Co Founder Member, Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome Help (HUSH), The UK E.coli Support Group, UK

Tiiu Muursepp Director, Tartu Consumer Advice and Information Centre, Estonia,


Board Member, Tartu Women Society, Estonia

The European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) was created in 1962 by the consumer organisations of Belgium, Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. After working together for a number of years, these organisations decided to create a European association, based in Brussels, right at the heart of Community policy. BEUC was a pioneer, one of the first lobbying organisations to set up base in the European capital in a bid to influence the decision-making process.

BEUC -- The European Consumers' Organisation

EUbusiness Copyright EUbusiness Ltd 2008

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