Additives ‘a risk to children’s health’

Parents have been warned to remove food additives linked to hyperactive behaviour from children’s diets by the EU’s leading expert on the issue.

Dr John Larsen, who heads the European Food Safety Authority’s panel on additives, said the measure would be “prudent” to protect youngsters’ health.

His comments came as researchers at Southampton University warned that additives harm the “psychological health” of children, holding back their progress at school and their ability to learn to read at a young age.

The discovery has triggered calls from consumer and health groups for a total ban on additives.

At yesterday’s EFSA conference in Brussels, Dr Larsen, a member of the Danish National Food Institute, said: “It would be prudent to take these out of the diet. It seems they may have this ability to worsen something that is going on.

“If parents think there might be a problem – such as with behaviour – they should try removing these additives.”

Despite campaigners – including the Daily Mail – lobbying to have dangerous additives banned from foods, the Government has so far refused to do so.

However, the Foods Standards Agency has passed responsibility on a final decision to the EFSA and a panel headed by Dr Larsen.

But he has refused to say whether he would like a total ban, insisting his team would need to examine properly the Southampton research.

The study, which has been praised as the most thorough of its kind, was led by Professor Jim Stevenson.

It concluded that additives can cause “significant adverse effects” in children.

Professor Stevenson added: “I feel that the effects we are seeing here are sufficiently great to represent a threat to health.”