back to article Government warns parents of food-colouring danger

Parents are being warned of a link between disruptive behaviour and hyperactivity in children and certain food additives. Research conducted by the Food Standards Agency established that children behave impulsively, and lost concentration after drinking a cocktail of additives and preservatives. Some 300 children were involved …


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  1. Silas

    To quote the BBC's Magazine Monitor

    Wouldn't this be considered as one of the things we knew last week?

    I mean, come on, who exactly is supposed to be surprised by this? Haven't the links between food colourings and instability in the consumers been proven previously?

    Oh wait, yes it was

  2. Richard

    My time machine works!!!

    Bloody Hell i've travelled back in time to 1980's

    I've known about this since I was a kid - too many E numbers make you hyper, that was common knowledge. Have people got such bad memories we need to be reminded of what was current 20 odd years ago?.

    This has always been the case. Are people being paid stupid amounts of money for stating the bleeding obvious?

    Next thing you know they'll be talking about Flares being back in fashion

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whoopee doo!

    How about they go after serious shit like aspartame? Or is that too "controversial" as the FDA approved it just for Cheney?


    On a scale of 1-10 the chemicals mentioned would rate a 2 in long-term damage - there is WAY worse stuff out there (like the aforementioned aspartame which as far as I can tell is in EVERY soft drink made in the UK).

    Muppets. Total muppets.

    PS - not heard of aspartame? Try googling +aspartame +toxic +FDA +Cheney and see what that gets you ;-) Enjoy. Or not.

  4. Tim Schomer


    So it's taken the government about 20 years to catch up with the same conclusion that we've all known all this time. 'Spose I shouldn't be surprised though...

  5. Richard Neill

    Food adulterants

    There are some things which simply *do not belong* in food. Such things include

    high-fructose syrup (a bad substitute for sugar), margarine (bad substitute for butter), gelatine (usually a substitute for egg yolk in chocolate mousse), and colourings (make insipid food look tastier than it is).

    [I can see occasional justifications for preservatives, and for rare use of colours, but basically, food should be left the colour that it is meant to be. If that makes a "fake" product so unappealing that no-one buys it, then that's a good thing!]

    I'm not really concerned here with whether colourings are dangerous; they just don't belong in "proper" food.

  6. Mike

    Another fine piece of research...

    brought to you by the Department of the Bleeding Obvious.

  7. Chris

    Does this mean...

    that we will see the introduction of random Smartie testing on school sports days?

  8. Andy

    E For Additives?

    How unbelievable is this, what a waste of research money? Just ask any parent from the eighties. Almost all of us had a copy of a big red book entitled 'E FOR ADDITIVES' and it spelled out all the dangers of the various additives. And you could so easily test for your self the truth of it with a cup of cheap orange juice, or packet of smarties for the kids. It really was, 'Light the touchpaper and retire a safe distance.'

    Why, oh why, have we not learned about this and banned these substances?

  9. MattW

    No sh*t Sherlock!

    Thank God the government's told us this - I had no idea.......

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought I'd better read the research before commenting...

    "in the sample of 3 year old children Mix A showed a significant adverse effect on the average level of hyperactivity within this group, compared with the placebo, but Mix B did not. For the 8-year old children, Mix B but not Mix A showed a significant adverse effect on the average level of hyperactivity compared with the placebo"

    So the effect is age-dependent.

    "some specific types of genetic make-up, specifically to do with variations in certain genes involved in the release of histamine from cells, were associated with greater responses to either or both of the test mixtures"

    So it's also dependent on your individual genetic make-up.

    "had adverse effects on the hyperactive behaviour of some children"

    Yes, but how many is some? I suspect it was a minority.

    "It is important to note that neither of the challenge drinks equates to any drinks that might be commercially available"


    So what they seem to be saying is :

    Depending on (a) your age and (b) if you drew the short straw genetically, if we fed you our laboratory-brewed additive potion, you MIGHT become a bit more hyperactive.

    Just my opinion, but I think some more work is needed here before we started banning all food additives.

  11. P. J. Isserlis

    Old hat

    As said all ready, this is old news. My children are now grown up (or think they are); but this was well known in UK and NZ, in the 1980s and 1990s. I am just amazed that old friends such as Tartrazine are still widely used. After all, theoretically many of the artificial sweeteners have been banned and reduced salt/sugar or whatever in food and drink are all the rage. Do n't modern researchers do any background reading and research or even talk to their own parents before researching and announcing their "discoveries"?

    Mind you, I keep reading of all these wonderful computing advances and feeling a bored sense of deja vu, as in, "yes, we tried that donkeys' years ago and abandonded it as useless/used it in xyz". Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, or something like that.

  12. g e


    Garbage in (food) gives Garbage out (behaviour/attitude).

    We give our kids the healthiest diet we're able (one of them is very diet-sensitive, so they all get the same), i.e. low sugar, next to no additives or preservatives, where we can.

    Once a teacher had some jaffa cakes which were passed around the class, our daughter had one and the teacher said that was the last time she was going to do that as she was hyper for the rest of the day...

    If you take the crap out of the kids' diet and increase the omega3 (yeah sounds like a diet ad doesn't it), you'll be amazed at the difference in your kids in 3 weeks.

    It's not like you have to punish your wallet to do it, either, just be attentive to what you buy in your weekly shop. I know parent who have their kids diagnosed ADHD but feed them absolute junk (think fast food almost daily, etc). Maybe the kids should get a decent diet and get the damned lazy PARENTS diagnosed with something.. suggestions for what the diagnosis could be, anyone? ;o)

  13. Stephen Gazard

    7-Up. pretty much additive free

    And in my mind tastier. I've stopped drinking Robinsons since they put aspartame and saccharin in the drink. the flavour is noticeably different and awful in my mind

  14. Alan Smewing

    It's a bit late but it is absolutly true!

    I was told I was hyper-active when I was 6. I could tell when I'd eaten something that I shouldn't have because my head would 'swirl' (normally clockwise - don't know why). Inside I was still rational though. I could watch myself doing things, knowing that they were wrong and that I would be in trouble for them, but I couldn't stop myself from doing them.

    I'm 30 now but I can still feel it to a lesser extend if I have too much sugar and items with colouring in ('Skittles' are the worst! Seen that advert where the kid gives them to the granny and she goes nuts? It wouldn't surprize me if that turned out to be based on a real case!).

    They say kids grow out of it but I think that most of us just stop eating crap.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sorry to keep banging on about aspartame but EVERY SINGLE Robinsons drink contains it - or if there are drinks that don't then I can't find them. Corrections welcomed if you know better but definitely a company to avoid if you have a problem with aspartame.

  16. Bytus

    *ring ring*

    It's the 80s calling...they want their blindingly obvious findings back!

    Oh was the "europeans counterparts" that came up with this...well in that case let us just settle back and prepare for another long batch of "discoveries".

  17. Dave Murray

    Too orangy for crows

    Ah good old tatrazine and E numbers. They're why my Ki-Ora is too orangy for crows, its just for me and my dog...

    As everyone's said we all new this in the 80s. It's why my sister wouldn't let her kids eat any cool sweets like Smarties. Its also why the blue ones are the best. They are a bad idea for kids but don't deserve to be banned, then where would I (and other 70s kids) get my fix?

    If you're feeling drained and tired I recommend Smarties chocolate bars. They're packed full of sugar and E numbers and will give you a great boost. ;)

  18. John A Blackley

    Everybody knows

    Yep, everybody knows E-additives are bad for kids. Have known it for decades. That's why foods with E-additives don't ever sell and the number of kids 'diagnosed' with hyperactivity and ADD is shrinking.

    On a (slightly) related note, just the other day I was watching the South Park episode about ADD. Loved the 'new' treatment where the esteemed doctor walked down a line of 'ADD' schoolkids, slapped each one on the head and screamed, "Sit Down! Shut up! Read!"

  19. Jay

    what about the Pepsi challenge?

    group A Pepsi

    group B Coke

    group C Amphetamines

    It would be a close call imho

  20. Alan Donaly


    Amphetamines are used to treat ADD actually ADHD or whatever their calling hyperactivity this month adderall is a mix of amphetamines in a slow release form so really pepsi and coke which have caffeiene aren't really similar in their effect at all to the real thing. Stimulants are not all created equal kids have tendency to be sensitive to smaller doses and to more things than adults however the worst case of squealing little monster disorder seems to be provoked by chocolate candy.

  21. Michael


    "I could tell when I'd eaten something that I shouldn't have because my head would 'swirl' (normally clockwise - don't know why)."

    Thank Mr. Coreolis.

  22. A. Merkin

    Foiled Hat

    What we've all known for 20 years; food additives are intended to create hyper-viligant super soldiers!

  23. Graham Lockley

    Common Ground

    Ok I've read all the 'research' and read all the personal statements above and the only common factor I've spotted is 'sugary foods'.

    Im not a biologist ( or any other kind of 'ist') but isnt sugar a 'now' fuel to our bodies ?

    Having said that, I worked as a lab technician to the soft drinks arm of a major multinational back in eighties and saw some of the coal based dyes that were added and wasnt happy then with it.

    I thought Tartrazine had been banned along with one we called Supra Green ?

  24. Rupert Wilson

    nothing new here, but why just for kids

    There is nothing new to this 'news', all known of and proven for many years, and most of the information is missing from recent headlines which approach it as a childhood concern only, when it can affect anyone of any age.

    There are 3 key groups of additives (not all E numbers are bad, just a handy abbreviation for additives, some of which are natural) that commonly cause trouble:

    Azo dyes (the man-made food colorants), preservatives (benzoates and sulphites, etc) and then it is just odd items that have been banned in forward thinking areas of the world including continental Europe and America due to proven toxicity/carcinogenic effects.

    These groups of additives commonly cause problems for those with eczema+asthma, for susceptible groups who might get hyperactivity/altered mood and behaviour issues (though high sugar/caffeine intake also cause problems), as well as anyone capable of suffering cancer, etc.

    In other words, the correct advice to give, is that people minimise or eliminate intake of these additives. Shame on the food safety people for being so toothless. Good on M&S for leading the way in eliminating harmful and needless additives, including hydrogenated vegetable oil, a known cause of heart disease.

  25. Aubry Thonon

    well, derrrr....

    In OZ, there's been an old adage floating around since time immemorial - "don't give red cordial to kids". Green or Yellow seems to be OK, but the Red stuff just sends them round the loop.

    As for additive, I like my Diet Coke full of Phenylalanine... Hmmmmm Phenylalanine - the best way to make a long day seem so short. ^_^

    (in case you didn't know, PA has been linked to short-term memory disruption under certain food combinations).

  26. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    Jelly Beans Get Me Zonkered

    Sure you would think its just the sugar, but buy a pack of jelly beans and gobble about half of them.

    Purists may wish to try all red or all green.

    The buzz is unmistakable, but please don't be telling any parents, the doctors prefer that you spend thousdands "treating" these effects, instead of simply removing chemical dyes from their diet.

    The hangover is a bitch too.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    research dept finds 20 year old paper and decides to release it!!!!!!

    i have known this for years, E numbers in diet = horrible kids (and a few adults)

    as to robinsons not making any drinks without aspartame i suggest the gent looks at their HI-JUICE range it is the only one i have found with only a few preservatives in (no artificial colours or flavourings)

    i take kids camping with scouts and we see a difference in about 2 days but the minute they top up on sweets and E numbers you have less than 30 minutes before mayhem breaks out again

    this E number thing is so old hat, how many super markets now openly advertise on their own brand sweet "no artificial colours or addatives". they see it as marketing because so many parents have been actively looking for such sweets for so long they have responded to market demand and due to demand once they were on sale the range of goods with no e numbers etc has increased

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chemicals: bad for kids

    says it all. What do you think happens when you eat or drink chemicals?

    Also, I don't care what happens to me because of aspartame. Yum! Diet Coke!

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