Food Colourings - major cause in Temper Tantrums among Children



Tara Womersley, Health Correspondent

"A government-funded survey in Britain found a link between the use of food colourings and tantrums in young children.

TEMPER tantrums in up to a quarter of young children could be caused by food colourings added to popular brands.

A government-funded study has established a link between colourings added to food and changes in children's mood and behaviour.

The effect of food additives were tested on 277 three-year-olds over the course of a month. For two weeks, the children drank fruit juice dosed with a total of 20mg of the artificial food colourings Tartrazine (E102), Sunset Yellow (E110), Carmoisine (E122) and Ponceau 4R (E124), and the preservative Sodium Benzoate (E211). For the other two weeks, the children drank a placebo fruit juice, identical in appearance but without the additives.

The test dose of colourings administered in the trial was well below levels permitted in children's food and drinks.

The parents, who were unaware what drink had been given, then filed reports assessing behaviour such as interrupting, concentration, disturbing others, difficulty settling down to sleep, fiddling with objects and temper tantrums.

The researchers concluded that "significant changes in children's hyperactive behaviour could be produced by the removal of food colourings and additives from their diet". They added: "The findings of the present study suggest that benefit would accrue for all children from such a change, and not just for those already showing hyperactive behaviour or who are at risk of allergic reactions."

The research was carried out at the UK's Asthma and Allergy Research Centre between 1999 and 2000, on the Isle of Wight.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), which inherited responsibility for the research from the now defunct Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries, said yesterday that although the study was "in line with previous reports by other organisations, independent medical and scientific experts agree that the evidence and conclusions of this research are still not conclusive and it still remains an area of significant scientific uncertainty".

A spokeswoman added: "The study was rejected from a number of peer reviewed publications. Todate, it has not been published in a peer reviewed journal."

However, the Food Commission, which campaigns for the right to eat wholesome food, has called for additives to be removed from children's foods and drink.

Annie Seelie, a nutritionist at the commission, which has published the research in its Food magazine, said: "Nearly 40 per cent of children's food and drinks contain additives. Colourings are used to make products look especially appealing to children.

"Now that a link between these colourings and disruptive behaviour has been proved, we should remove these additives from children's foods and drinks."

Kath Dalmeny, a research officer at the Food Commission, added: "Countries such as Sweden and Denmark have issued guidelines on some of these colourings and manufacturers in these countries do not tend to use them.

"However consumers in these countries are becoming worried that they are coming in through exports."

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drink Federation, which represents the industry, said the organisation was in agreement with the FSA that the results of the study were not conclusive. She said: "The use of additives is extremely regulated and there is no reason for consumers to be concerned. They certainly should not be shying away from buying their favourite foods."

Mike Webber, the director of the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance, added: "All of these additives go through vigorous approval procedures at international, European and national levels. To get a new additive on the list, you have to go through all sorts of hoops to establish its safety.

"Additives have an important job to do and they help to ensure safety, consistency and quality.

"Consumers prefer products to have colour and do not like things with drab colours, and this is an important aspect of quality. Preservatives also keep products fresh for longer."

But Nick Giovanelli, of the charity Hyperactive Children's Support Group, said: "We see a growing number of children each year and over the last 25 years, we have helped hundreds of thousands of children. If a child has behavioural problems, the first thing we advise is that additives should be removed from their diet. In a third of cases, the parents are quite amazed at the effect. In another third of cases, it may be that a child has an allergy to a natural chemical found in food and in the remaining third of children medication or alternative therapies may be needed."


Food colourings are present in 93 per cent of sweets, 78 per cent of children's desserts and 42 per cent of children's milkshakes, according to research published earlier this year by the food firm Organix.

The study on the Isle of Wight looked at four artificial colourings - (E102), (E110), (E122) and (E124). Researchers also studied the preservative Sodium Benzoate (E211).

The Food Commission has compiled a list of 200 children's foods and drinks that contain these additives.

Among the most common products to contain Sodium Benzoate are fizzy drinks such as Diet Coke, Orangina and Lucozade. Ribena also contains the same preservative.

As well as Sodium Benzoate, Irn Bru also contains Sunset Yellow and Ponceau 4R.

A Harry Potter Hogwarts Cookie Kit, from Kerry Foods, and Monsters Inc cake, from Nestle, comes complete with Carmoisine and Ponceau 4R. And while a Bob the Builder cake and Spiderman cake, from Lightbody, have these two colourings they also have the added ingredient of Sunset Yellow.

Winegums contain Carmoisine and Rowntree's Jelly Tots and Fruit Pastilles have Ponceau 4R and Sunset Yellow in them.

3D cheesy corn snacks from Walkers contain Sunset Yellow."

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