UK leading Europe in additive-free products, Mintel

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Global new products, Food, Fsa

More than a thousand new food products claiming to be additive- and
preservative-free have been launched in the UK this year, according
to Mintel, representing almost a quarter of all launches and nearly
three times as many as any other European country.

The market researcher delved into its Global New Products Database (GNPD) for figures on products marketed on a natural platform, which is closely associated with health and caters to consumers with a mistrust of artificial ingredients. In all, there were 1019 products listed for the UK market. Germany was in second place with 388, and France was third with 322. In 2006, 800 additive- and preservative-free products were listed as launched in the UK. The UK food industry has referred to Mintel's findings as evidence that it is making a clear and concerted effort to reduce artificial additives in foods, particularly in the light of criticism levelled at it following the publication of the Southampton study on the effects of certain cocktails of colours and the preservative sodium benzoate on children's behaviour. The Southampton study was commissioned by the FSA to investigate whether there could be a link between specific additives and hyperactive behaviour in young children. It concluded that there is. The study and the appropriateness of the FSA's response has been much debated over the last two weeks. Following a review by its Committee on Toxicology, the FSA revised its advice to parents that eliminating the additives in question from the diet could have some benefits for hyperactive kids or those with ADHD. Consumer organisations subsequently criticised the FSA's response as pandering to the food industry. Today two academics launched a fresh attack on the agency in the form of a letter hand-delivered to chair Dame Deidre Hutton prior to tomorrow's board meeting. According to The Guardian​ newspaper Professor Erik Millstone, professor of science policy at the University of Sussex, and Professor Tim Lang, of the centre for food policy at the City University, London set out a nine-point action plan for board members to consider before the meeting. This includes the possibility of sending delegations to the European Commission to argue for restriction on use of synthetic colours, particularly in products aimed at children. So far the FSA has forwarded a copy of the study to the European Food Safety Authority for consideration as part of its review of colouring safety. They would also like to see a review of additives used in prescription and over-the-counter medicines, would like additive labelling for products sold in catering outlets to be reviewed, and for the Schools Trust to review its guidance on additives used in food sold or served in schools. At a seminar hosted by GC Hahn (now owned by Tate & Lyle) in March, the stabilising systems supplier said the UK is leading the way towards developing E-number-free ingredients. It said that the trend is mostly driven by retailers, who are upping the pressure on food manufacturers for more clean label products. While other European markets are not so focused on clean labels, the company said it expects this to grown into a key topic in the future.

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