When our daughter was young, about 20 years ago, we became aware of a link between bad behaviour and the food she ate. More specifically, the additives in the food she ate.
I vaguely recall there was a book that highlighted the problem called E for Additives that caused a huge stir and after we bought it we began to scan the labels of everything we bought for the E numbers. One that we knew we had to avoid was sunset yellow, E110 but there was a whole list.
I’m not talking about getting excited or being ‘over tired’ but a whole new level when she’d had these additives. The effect of cutting them out of her diet was nothing short of miraculous.
Well I assumed that by now these things were banned from our food or at least dropped by manufacturers being aware that many parents don’t want to poison their children. Strangle them at times, but poison them no.
Imagine my sense of Déjà vu when I heard that the Food Standards Agency had undertaken research that showed that children behave impulsively, and lost concentration after drinking a cocktail of additives and preservatives.
University Study of Food Additives (E Numbers)
The university of Southampton undertook the research funded by a £0.75m grant from the Food Standards Agency on 300 children aged between three and nine years old. They were given a drink containing four artificial colours (sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129)) and the preservative sodium benzoate (E211). The mix was designed to reflect the composition and quantity of additives a child was likely to consume in a typical day.
They were also given another mix, identical to that in a previous study. This contained E102 (tartrazine) and E124 (Ponceau 4R), as well as sunset yellow, carmoisine and sodium benzoate. There was also a placebo, containing no additives at all.
Apparently the previous study from 7 years ago linked the additives to problems such as hyperactivity, lack of concentration, temper tantrums and allergic reactions.
This study also did the same. Professor of Psychology, Jim Stevenson, who led the research, comments: ‘We now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colours and benzoate preservative can adversely influence the behaviour of children. There is some previous evidence that some children with behavioural disorders could benefit from the removal of certain food colours from their diet. We have now shown that for a large group of children in the general population, consumption of certain mixtures of artificial food colours and benzoate preservative can influence their hyperactive behaviour.”
The research team used a combination of reports on the children’s behaviour from teachers and parents, together with recordings of the children’s behaviour in the classroom made by an observer, and, for the older children, a computer-based test of attention. None of the participants – teachers, parents, the observer, or the children – knew which drink each child was taking at any one time.
20 Years On – Progress on Food Additives?
So here we are – 20 years down the road since the problem was highlighted and it’s still being researched. We discourage smoking because it is bad for people but allow the addition of chemicals to our food and our children’s food that has been shown over and over again to be harmful. There’s no real benefit with them apart from cosmetic either. Banning there use would put all the manufacturers onto the same footing so what is the problem?
OK, the fizzy drink might not be brightly coloured but is that really worth damaging a child’s mental abilities?
So check the labels on your food, especially fizzy drinks that children love. You might just find the tantrum about not having the drink is well worth it,