Food additives and the European Food safety Authority

Rory Watson BMJ 29th March 2008, p 687
The European Food Safety Authority has rejected suggestions in a study by researchers at Southampton University last year of a link between hyper activity in children and two mixtures of food colours and the preservative sodium benzoate (Lancet 20O7; vol 370; pp 1560-7).The study, which was commissioned by the U K Food Standards Agency.
After a request from the European Commission, the Parma based authority asked its panel on food additives, flavourings, processing aids, and food contact materials to assess the study’s findings that the colourings and preservative in the diet led to more hyperactivity in 3 year old and 8-9 year old children.
In its report, published on 14 March, the panel listed its many reservations about the study’s findings. It pointed to the lack of consistency in the results with respect to the age and sex of the children and the type of observer (parent, teacher, or independent assessor); the unknown clinical relevance of the effects measured; and the lack of information on any dose-response relation.
The panel also maintained that the fact that mixtures were studied made it impossible to identify the effects of individual additives and noted the absence, of a plausible biological mechanism that might explain the possible link between behaviour and the consumption of colours. As a result, the authority, which advises the European Union on food safety, maintained that there is no basis for changing present recommendations on the acceptable daily intake of the food colours or sodium benzoate.

The report is at

This is either a comment on the original study, the Lancet for publishing the report or the UK FSA. Or
that the EU authority already had entrenched views on the topic and could not be convinced by any
argument. .

Martin Eastwood
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