Local media reported this past week that the Zooper Dooper Flavoured Ice Confection Mix contained food colours that have been banned amid health concerns overseas, some in as many as 12 countries.
Chief amidst the concerns cited by safe food campaigners that the product contained the preservative sodium benzoate, which while on its own is harmless, was dangerous when mixed with three of the product's artificial colourings.
But Lydia Buchtmann, a spokesperson for Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) told FoodNavigator-Asia that they have looked at the ingredients of Zooper Doopers and are not of the same opinion.
“Despite claims by some anti-food additive campaigners, we have approved the food colours in the product as safe,” she disclosed and pointed out that these colours are not banned overseas either.
“However, the European Union has required products containing the said food colourings to have the warning statement, that they may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children,” she said.
The basis of the concerns comes from a study done at the University of Southampton in England in 2007 on the three colourings -Tartrazine 102, Sunset yellow 110 and Carmoisine 122 – with a focus on their effect on children
The Southampton researchers tested the artificial colourings with sodium benzoate and concluded that consuming artificial colourings or sodium benzoate or both led to increased hyperactivity in children.
Buchtmann said that the FSANZ had examined the Southampton study into the possible effects of artificial food colours on children’s behaviour after it was published in 2007.
“The European Food Safety Authority [EFSA] concluded that the study provided limited evidence that the mixtures of colours and sodium benzoate had an effect on the activity and attention of children in the general population,” she said.
Buchtmann further added that FSANZ agreed with the EFSA’s conclusion that there was not enough evidence to change the current limits or use of these additives.
“We also know from our 2006 study of added colours in food that Australian food manufacturers use these colours at much lower levels than those used in the UK study,” Buchtmann remarked.
For example, the UK study assumed a concentration of 67mg/kg of the colour Tartrazine in confectionery, said Buchtmann, whereas the average concentration of Tartrazine found in our survey was only 10mg/kg.
“We have also estimated the amounts of these colours that are consumed by Australian children, and know that Australian children are also consuming food colours at much lower levels than the amounts used in the UK study,” she said.
For example, she pointed out that on an average, six to 12 year olds in Australia are consuming the food colour Tartrazine at 14% of the amount used for eight to nine year olds in the UK study.
LD&D Australia Pty Ltd, the company manufacturing this product into the trans-Tasman region, did not respond to repeated requests for comments from FoodNavigator-Asia.