Food Colorings to Be Removed

Discussion
Apr 18, 2008

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Partner, Fine Food Network

If you’ve never been around (or parent of) a hyperactive child, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, food ingredients are clearly labeled (albeit with code numbers that you have to understand) and you can choose not to purchase anything that might over-excite said child.

But “an accumulating body of evidence,” as Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has described it, has led them to recommend a voluntary elimination of six artificial colorings from all food by the end of this year. Having not been totally convinced by a study into links between the colorings and hyperactivity when it was published in September 2007, the report’s author, Professor Jim Stevenson, wrote to the FSA in March demanding immediate action.

Explaining his view that the colorings are nearly as dangerous for children as lead in petrol (gas), he told the FSA that, “The position in relation to artificial food colors (AFCs) is analogous to the state of knowledge about lead and IQ that was being evaluated in the early 1980s.” Leaded petrol was phased out in 2000, two decades after the warning, reported The Telegraph.

Parents have been raising concerns about the effects of artificial additives on children’s behavior since the 1970s, according to The Independent.

As the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) would have to approve, and EU legislation would take several years to implement, the FSA wants to see voluntary “phasing out” as soon as possible.

EFSA said in March that as there were no nutritional benefits from the additives, there would be no cost or risk to children in removing them.

Many recipes have already been changed to use natural rather than artificial additives. Defending their position, the UK’s Food & Drink Federation had their spokesman, Julian Hunt, repeat his mantra about how much has already been done and how determined manufacturers are to continuously improve their products and work for the good of consumers. He also pointed out that food additives were properly tested before they were allowed to reach the public.

Discussion questions: How would you weigh the balance for food additives and colorings that may positively (or negatively) affect some people but have an opposite (or little or no) effect on others? Generally, should vendors and retailers be voluntarily moving away from artificial flavors and colors sooner rather than later?

[Author commentary]
Mr. Hunt admitted that technical difficulties finding alternative ingredients for some products might mean consumers would be deprived of favorite delicacies such as Battenberg cake, Turkish delight and mushy peas. (Don’t ask – just look it up in Wikipedia.)

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

6 Comments on "Food Colorings to Be Removed"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
James Tenser
Guest
14 years 1 month ago
Health concerns about coal-tar-derived artificial food colorings are decades old. I recall writing a research paper on the topic as a high-school student in the early ’70s, and finding references then that were much older. Some colorings may be cancer-causing. Others had health effects that were more difficult to document and describe. Some were banned where research evidence was available. I recall realizing that non-water-soluble colorings could be more easily absorbed in processed foods that contained emulsifiers (mixing agents), making them potentially more dangerous than existing research showed. It’s very hard to avoid artificial colorings in our modern western diets. They are quietly present in soft drinks, baked goods, confections–you name it. The risk from a single serving may be tiny, but the risk of long term consumption and mixing together of chemicals in other foods may be very significant. So I have to applaud the British FSA for banning these six chemicals. Even though it will cost the manufacturers to reformulate. Even though some foods will be a little less bright and shiny. Artificial… Read more »
Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
14 years 1 month ago

This should be a no-brainer, especially for artificial coloring. Artificial flavors may enhance the flavor of products, but artificial color seems highly unnecessary, especially if it is suspected that they have deleterious effects on some consumers.

Unfortunately for those of us in the U.S., regulations in Europe will protect only those in Europe. Manufacturers may change their formulas for use in Europe, but maintain the same formulas in the U.S. because there will be no incentive to change here. This is the case with many chemicals used in foods, drugs, cosmetics and other consumer goods in the U.S.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Color is often a deciding factor in the purchase of a product. Vendors and food companies need to find medical experts willing to testify that food coloring has nothing to do with hyperactivity. There are two sides to every story and the one that generates the most profits it the correct one.

Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

If vendors are smart, they’ll move away from such additives. Eliminating them would be responding to rising consumer awareness and concern regarding health issues in general. And who knows, someday some bright attorney may get creative and file class action lawsuits.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
14 years 1 month ago

This just sounds like good common sense to me. The role of artificial colors and flavors is to improve the look and taste of foods but it shouldn’t be at the expense of their safety.

I can understand why manufacturers want to use these ingredients to enhance the appearance and tastes of their products. The first debate I can remember about food coloring was when it was originally banned from oleo margarine in Minnesota but the butter people saying it confused people into thinking it was really butter. I worked in a Northern Iowa grocery store and people from Minnesota would come across the border and buy colored margarine by the cases because they couldn’t get it in Minnesota. That didn’t last very long but it demonstrated the marketing power of the look or appearance of food products. All the margarine tasted about the same but the colored looked so much better than the non-colored.

Make manufacturers find natural ingredients for their products and not take the easy way out.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Food manufacturers might be happy to drop the artificial colors if their competitors also did simultaneously. But no one wants to be competitively disadvantaged. Years ago, Morocco banned coloring from soft drinks, so Coca-Cola wasn’t brown, it was clear like water. (I have not been to Morocco for a long time, so I don’t know if the ban is still in effect.)

More destructive than food coloring: caffeine. At least food colors aren’t addictive. When will caffeine be banned from all soft drinks?

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Should food suppliers be moving aggressively away from artificial flavors and colors?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...