In September 2007 the confectionery and snack food companies both pledged to reformulate products containing the so-called Southampton six colours, which have been linked to hyperactivity in children. Mars set the deadline of the end of 2007 and Cadbury, which reiterated its promise in April 2008, said it would take out the colours by end of last year.
However the Food Commission’s Action on Additives campaign has identified some products that still contain the additives, including popular Easter products like Cadbury’s Creme Egg and Mini Eggs. It has criticised the multinationals as “highly irresponsible”.
“To make these pledges at times of high media attention then quietly neglect to honour them is simply cynical PR opportunism,” said Action on Additives co-ordinator Anna Glayzer, who noted that other companies have successfully reformulated.
The artificial colours implicated in the Southampton study are Tartrazine (E102), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Sunset Yellow (E110), Carmoisine (E122), Ponceau 4R (E124) and Allura Red (E129).
Cadbury products that Action on Additives notes still contain one or more of the colours are: Creme Egg, Creme Egg Twisted, Dairy Milk Turkish, Fry’s Turkish Delight, Maynard Sports Mixture, Mini Eggs, Roses, Sugarfree Trident Soft Pepermint, and Sugarfree Trident Splash Apple & Apricot Flavour.
Mars products are Revels, and Starburst Choozers.
A spokesperson for Mars said Revels will be reformulated to remove Quinoline Yellow, Carmoisine, and Ponceau 4R by the end of 2009. He said that the company has always been “transparent” about its intentions.
A Cadbury representative did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication of this article.
In November 2008, UK ministers voted to introduce a voluntary ban on the six colours, with a view to phasing them out by the end of 2009. The Food Standards Agency has a web space listing food manufacturers, retailers and caterers that do not use the colours.
Glazier said: “A mandatory ban would be more simple, effective, and would take the burden off parents.”
She also said the FSA could be doing more to enforce the ban, that the on-line lists are currently very short, and are located in a hard to find location on the FSA website. The lists are at http://www.food.gov.uk/safereating/chemsafe/additivesbranch/colours/colourfree
At the European level, the European Parliament has voted a mandatory statement on food and beverage products containing the colours, reading “may have an effect on activity and attention in children”. This requirement is expected to be in force by mid-2010, and industry observers have said it amounts to a de facto ban.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gave its opinion that the Southampton study itself does not give grounds for changing the ADI of the colours, but it is prioritising them in its review of the safety of all food colours this year.