In 2007 the food industry was rocked by a University of Southampton study which found a link between some artificial colours and hyperactivity in children. The colours in question, dubbed the 'Southampton Six', were sunset yellow FCF (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129), tartrazine (E102) and ponceau 4R (E124).
Although the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said the study’s evidence was limited, the EU decided to implement the precautionary approach and in July 2010 foods containing any of the Southampton six colours were required to be clearly be labelled: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”.
EFSA has been re-evaluating the safety of the colours since the study and has so far declared allura red and sunset yellow to be safe, even increasing the acceptable daily intake for sunset yellow.
But the consumer backlash against the artificial colours led to the food industry frantically reformulating products to remove the Southampton Six - particularly in Europe - and the trend for natural was firmly established.