Food Standards Agency
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European Food Safety Authority issues opinions on six artificial colours

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has today published its scientific opinions on six artificial food colours.

In 2007 the Food Standards Agency-commissioned 'Southampton study' was published. This study looked into the effects of six artificial food colours and a preservative on the behaviour of children.

The six colours are:

  • sunset yellow FCF (E110)
  • quinoline yellow (E104)
  • carmoisine (E122)
  • allura red (E129)
  • tartrazine (E102)
  • ponceau 4R (E124)

The findings of the study suggested that if a child shows signs of hyperactivity or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) then eliminating the colours used in the Southampton study from their diet might have some beneficial effects. (For the FSA advice and FSA Board discussion on this issue, see the links at the bottom of the page.)

On the basis of the evidence from this peer reviewed study, UK Ministers and the FSA asked UK industry to voluntarily remove the six colours from food and drink in the UK by the end of this year. In addition, the EU agreed that from July 2010 food and drink containing these colours should carry labelling to inform consumers that these colours may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.

As part of its review of all approved additives, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued opinions on these six colours. These opinions do not alter the Agency’s advice on these colours.

EFSA’s opinions relate to the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of these additives. The ADI is the amount of an additive that a person may eat or drink each day for an entire lifetime without causing any known harm to health.

EFSA has advised that the ADIs for quinoline yellow, sunset yellow and ponceau 4R should be reduced. There are no revisions to the ADIs for carmoisine, allura red and tartrazine. EFSA has also produced intake assessments based on the maximum reported use levels of these six colours. For detailed information on the EFSA opinions, see the link below.

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.

In line with the request from UK Ministers and the FSA, UK industry is already working to remove these colours from food in produced in the UK. For information on products free from these six colours, see the link below.

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