Colour ADI adjustments: What it means for industry

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags E number Uk

The new ADIs for three of the colours included in the Southampton study may mean restrictions on levels or the range of foods they are used in, says the UK’s FSA. Campaigners, meanwhile, are still calling for an outright ban.

The European Food Safety Authority yesterday published opinions of the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of the six food colours included in the notorious Southampton study that saw a connection with hyperactivity in children.

For three of the colours – Quinoline Yellow, Ponceau 4R and Sunset Yellow – the ADIs have been lowered. FoodNavigator’s article on these new ADIs is here.

The other colours in the Southampton study were Allura Red (E128), Ponceau 4R (E124), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Sunset Yellow (E110), Tartrazine (E102), and Azorubine/Carmoisine (E122).

The UK’s Food Standards Agency, which commissioned the Southampton study, has said the ADI changes do not alter its advice to consumers: eliminating certain artificial food colours from the diets of children showing signs of hyperactivity might have a beneficial effect on their behaviour.

But it said: “We expect that the European Commission will discuss these opinions with European member states with a view to reducing use of these colours so that consumption does not exceed the ADI.
“This could mean a reduction in the levels of these colours allowed in food or restrictions on the range of foods in which they are allowed.”

These colours are being gradually phased out by industry, however. Not only has negative publicity following the Southampton study made consumers wary to their presence, but UK ministers approved a ‘voluntary ban’ on their use by the end of 2009.

In Europe, warning labels on products containing the six colours will be mandatory from July 2010 – even though EFSA has not seen scientific substantiation for the link with hyperactivity.

Mandate a ban

The UK-based Food Commission's Action on Additives campaign has been lobbying for a ban both in the UK and EU.

Campaign co-ordinator Anna Glayzer said: "That the Acceptable Daily Intakes have been lowered for three of the six colours shows once again that concerns are justified.”

But she added that, from the point of view of the consumer, it is still impossible to measure how much of these additives is in products as the levels used are not given on labels.

“These colours are totally unnecessary in foods. We continue to call for a mandatory ban.”

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