July 19, 2010 01:12 AM
FOOD authorities are reviewing alarming scientific evidence that artificial colourings found in thousands of daily food items could pose a cancer risk, as well as cause hyperactivity and allergic reactions in children.
The Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks report by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in the US wants the common colours to be banned.
The colours include the widely used yellow 5, also known as tartrazine (E102); yellow 6, or sunset yellow (E110); blue 1, (133); red 40 or allura red (E129) and red 3 (E127).
CSPI executive director and report co-author Michael F. Jacobson said the colours had been shown to cause cancer in rats and trigger behavioural problems in children.
"These synthetic chemicals do absolutely nothing to improve the nutritional quality or safety of foods but trigger behaviour problems in children and, possibly, cancer in anybody," Mr Jacobson said.
Download a list of food additives from the Food Intolerance Network
The research follows a 2008 Southampton University study which found several colours - sunset yellow, allura red and tartrazine - caused hyperactivity and loss of attention in children.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), along with its American counterpart the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are looking at the latest findings.
"We are assessing the data, and if there is good scientific evidence we will make changes," FSANZ spokesman Lydia Buchtman said.
Ms Buchtman said FSANZ previously had reviewed the Southampton study and concluded the colours were safe for the general population.
From Tuesday, European food manufacturers will be required to carry the warning "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children" if products contain the artificial colours.
However, Ms Buchtman said FSANZ had no plans to apply the same regulations in Australia.
Sue Dengate from the Food Intolerance Network said the colours were found in 1154 Australian products including Fruit Loops, Arnott's Tim Tams, Nestle Smarties, Aeroplane Jelly, Allen's Freckles and several Coles Smart Buy and Woolworths Select products.
"Most parents who have seen the effects on their children are outraged," Ms Dengate said.