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Food additives contribute to child hyperactivity

Stopping children from eating certain artificial food colourings may reduce their hyperactive behaviour, new Food Standards Agency (FSA) research suggests.

A Southampton University study has shown that eating a mixture of artificial food colours and the preservative sodium benzoate could cause children to become hyperactive.

The research was supported by the independent Committee on Toxicity (COT) who say this study is most relevant for children "towards the more hyperactive end of the scales."

Dr Andrew Wadge, the FSA's chief scientist, said: "This study is a helpful additional contribution to our knowledge of the possible effects of artificial food colours on children's behaviour."

The FSA is now advising parents to eliminate food colourings from children's diets if they show signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or hyperactivity.

But Dr Andrew Wadge adds: "We need to remember that there are many factors associated with hyperactive behaviour in children.

"These are thought to include genetic factors, being born prematurely, or environment and upbringing."

The FSA has shared its research findings with the European Food Safety Authority who are now conducting a review of EU permitted food colours.

"If parents are concerned about any additives they should remember that, by law, food additives must be listed on the label so they can make the choice to avoid the product if they want to," says Dr Wadge.

Professor Jim Stevenson, lead author of the research, adds: "Parents should not think that simply taking these additives out of food will prevent hyperactive disorders.

"We know that many other influences are at work but this at least is one a child can avoid."

Food Standards Agency