European agency to comment on hyperactivity study

by Staff
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The European Food Safety Agency in the coming weeks should comment on a study suggesting a link between mixtures of certain food colors and the preservative sodium benzoate and hyperactivity in children. The comment could have an effect on the regulation of the six colors in Europe and also on multinational companies based in North America and doing business in Europe.

Originally the E.F.S.A. planned to comment on the study by the end of February. The E.F.S.A. in December said s its opinion may come c a few weeks later l . An E.F.S.A. panel e is examining such issues i as the robustness n of the study design d and methodology o , the statistical analysis a , the role of genetic g predisposition t and the clinical signi s ficance of the fifi ndings for individuals a or the population in i general.

"Examination of these aspects will enable the panel to assess the implication of the findings and their relevance for drawing definitive conclusions on cause and effect and the possible role of particular colors," the E.F.S.A. said.

The study in question involved the University of Southampton’s Schools of Psychology and Medicine. The Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom commissioned the study.

Researchers studied the levels of hyperactivity in 153 3-year-olds and 144 8-year-olds. Over a six-week period they were given a drink each day. The drink could be fruit juice or a drink that contained one of two mixtures of food colors and benzoate preservative. When the children were given the drinks containing the test mixtures, in some cases their behavior was significantly more hyperactive.

"We now have clear evidence that mixtures of certain food colors and benzoate preservatives can adversely influence the behavior of children," said Jim Stevenson, professor of psychology.

After a story on the study appeared in the scientific journal The Lancet, the London-based Food and Drink Federation responded to the study on Sept. 6.

"It is important to reassure consumers that the Southampton study does not suggest there is a safety issue with the use of these additives," the F.D.F. said. "In addition, the way in which the additives were tested as a mixture is not how they are used in everyday products.

"As a responsible industry, we shall be studying the detail of the research, and companies will clearly take account of these findings as part of their ongoing review of product formulations."

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