Natural food colour suppliers are set to benefit from a decision by UK supermarket chain Co-op to ban 12 food colourings.

Natural food colour suppliers are set to benefit from a decision by UK supermarket chain Co-op to ban 12 food colourings, and the flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG) from all its own-brand food products.

Co-op’s potato crisps have been stripped of MSG, and numerous children’s products have also been reformulated, including sweets such as dolly mixtures and flying saucers, which contained quinoline yellow (E104), cochineal (E120), and indigo carmine (E132).

NEWS-dolly mixture-200

© iStockphotos

Co-op is the first UK supermarket chain to implement a ban, and cites the possibility of food intolerance and fresh concerns about children’s diets. The colourings have been replaced by natural alternatives, or where this was not possible, products have been discontinued. Co-op’s research suggests that a third of parents link their children’s diet to hyperactivity, naughtiness, anger and lack of concentration. However, less than half of those questioned regularly check product contents for information on sugar, additives, fat and salt.

Double-blind studies on the effects of food colourings on children have so far been inconclusive, according to the UK government’s Food Standards Agency. A further study, due out in 2007, has been funded to delve deeper into the subject. This will investigate both the short and long term effects of additives in children’s diets. Since all foods are labelled, the choice to avoid certain additives is down to the consumer. All additives must pass strict safety checks. ’If any new evidence were to emerge, their safety would be reviewed,’ an FSA spokesperson told Chemistry World.

According to the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group (HACSG), the colourings banned by Co-op should be avoided by children, and by those sensitive to additives. The total number of colours banned by the Co-op is now 21. 

Although these colours are still legally permitted for use in this country, some, such as Ponceau 4R (E124) and Quinoline Yellow (E104) are not allowed in the US, while Red 2G (E128) and Green S (E142) are not permitted in Japan. Helen Carmichael