Food colours and hyperactivity

colours in bowl

Research funded by the FSA has suggested that consumption of mixes of certain artificial food colours and the preservative sodium benzoate could be linked to increased hyperactivity in some children.

It is important to remember that hyperactivity is also associated with many other factors in addition to certain additives, so dietary advice may help manage hyperactive behaviour but may not be the total solution. Other factors include premature birth, genetics and upbringing.

The artificial colours are:

  • sunset yellow FCF (E110)
  • quinoline yellow (E104)
  • carmoisine (E122)
  • allura red (E129)
  • tartrazine (E102)
  • ponceau 4R (E124)

A European Union-wide mandatory warning must be put on any food and drink (except drinks with more than 1.2% alcohol) that contains any of the six colours. The label must carry the warning ‘may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’.

The Agency is encouraging manufacturers to work towards finding alternatives to these colours. Some manufacturers and retailers have already taken action to remove them.

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