Europe takes precautionary action over information on popular British soft drinks
1. The makers of two of Britain’s best-selling soft drinks, Lucozade and Irn-Bru, have been forced to warn parents that the drinks may cause hyperactivity. A newly-introduced EU law compels both drinks to display a warning that they contain artificial colors linked to behavioural problems in young children.
2. Manufacturers were asked 2 years ago by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to remove the colors after a study that indicated that they might alter the behaviour of young in an adverse way. Lucozade Original’s lurid yellow appearance comes from sunset yellow (E110), while Irn-Bru’s distinctive orange glow comes from sunset yellow and a red coloring, ponceau 4R (E124). Both also contain sodium benzoate (E211), a preservative found by researchers at Southampton University to cause hyperactivity, which is not covered by the EU rule. Lucozade’s owner GlaxoSmithKlyne volunteered warnings to shoppers about sunset yellow, but it and Irn-Bru’s maker AG Barr have to state the additives “may have effects on activity and attention in children.”
3. In offering this information to parents and shoppers the Independent’s Consumer Correspondent, Martin Hickman, has overlooked concerns over other objectionable and ubiquitous colorings to color soft drinks and colorings – and even pet-food. They are the chemicalized caramels described in previous accounts on our website and freely available from our database. The FSA’s library has been maintaining descriptions of these problems, including literature of research in Canada and the UK. The caramels do not belong to the collection of coal-tar derivatives among which sunset yellow, ponceau 4R, and tartarazine may be found: bisulfite or its equivalent, yields heterocyclic compounds, some of which contain bound-in nitrogen and sulphur possibly causing neurotoxicity.
4. The long-standing problem with canned mushy peas, which are colored green with blue and yellow coal-tar dyestuffs (named on labels) and bear illustrious names for coloring foods at chippies, has been resolved by work at Premier Foods, who make the peas for all the major and famous brands, by reformulating all the products with less exceptionable green colorings. More varieties of peas and beans, including home-grown soya beans (edamame), are sold frozen in supermarkets and in tins with strong similarity to traditional mushies, except for the reservations over the colorings.
5. The rearrangements of the FSA’s responsibilities have added complications for careful customers and parents. The new Minister of Health appears to suspect “nannying” and European interference over many matters where application of the precautionary principle on foods and manufacturers need tighter controls and even the slightest risks on what are flippantly, but accurately, dismissed as sugary abominations in populations growing in numbers and girth all too cheap and luridly presented to children of all ages.