Children advised to avoid E numbers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am

Parents are being advised to avoid giving children sweets, drinks and processed food containing artificial colours and flavours until the results of a study into their effects on children's behaviour are published.

According to the British food industry's magazine, The Grocer, research, carried out on behalf of the Food Standards Agency by the University of Southampton, is set to confirm the link between various E numbers - codes for food additives - and behavioural problems such as temper tantrums, poor concentration, and increased risk of breathing problems and skin complaints.

The findings are not likely to be published for several months, until they have been subjected to a peer review and published in a scientific journal, the standard mechanism for ensuring the validity of the science.

But Vyvyan Howard, a medical expert who has served on the agency's additives and behaviour working group and is professor of bio-imaging at Ulster University, told the South China Morning Post: 'We know a number of these additives act as central nervous system stimulants, so it is biologically plausible that they could be having an effect.

'Therefore, until the scientists have sorted it out, we should be much more cautious about what we are exposing children to.'

Andrew Wedge, chief scientist at the agency, said the additives in the study were currently approved for use under European Union legislation and permitted for use within Britain. By law, ingredients were clearly labelled, so consumers could make an informed choice about including additives their diet, he said.

But on the agency's website an anonymous parent commented: 'We cannot continue to poison our children. My first child barely slept, could not settle or sit still and was unable to concentrate. When I removed all food colouring from his diet he became a settled happy little boy.'