Julie Eady, anaward-winning consumer rights advocate and author of, “Additive Alert, Your Guide to Safer Shopping”, highlighted the milk sector’s use of certain additives as potentially dangerous to children, although her views were not backed by international food safety agencies.
Chocolate milks came in for particular attention.“Soaring cocoa prices however resulted in some manufacturers skimping on quality by adding artificial colours like Brilliant Blue 133 and Brown HT 155 to make the products look more chocolatey,” Eady said.
Lorraine Belanger, a spokesperson for Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) told FoodNavigator-Asia that Eady was basing her claims on a famous 2007 study in 2007 at the University of Southampton in the UK where researchers looked at possible effects of artificial food colours on children’s behaviour.
The six additives named in the study became known as the Southampton Six.
Like other food agencies around the world, she said, "FSANZ looked at this study and did not find evidence that would result in a lowering of safety limits for these colours.”
Eady pointed out that these colours have long been associated with hyperactivity, asthma and other health concerns, with Brown HT being banned in the US as a suspected animal carcinogen.
“Despite these concerns many artificial additives such as these continue to be used in chocolate and other flavoured milks across Australia,” Eady said.
“Red and yellow colours such as 122, 124, 102 and 110 are widely used in Australia despite the fact that, as of July 2010, their use in any product in the EU demands a warning label advising of the link to hyperactivity,” she said.
Belanger said the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published opinions on six food colours in November 2009, and a further seven food colours in 2010.
"EFSA concluded that the available evidence did not indicate a causal link between exposure to the colours, including those in the Southampton Study, and possible effects on behaviour," she added.
However, Belanger conceded Europe has required some products with some colours to bear the warning statement: "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children".
Belanger she highlighted a US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) review carried out this year that found no link between food colour consumption and hyperactivity.
"It found that current data [including the Southampton study] did not support a link," she added.
Glenys Zucco, nutrition media manager for Dairy Australia, vouched for the safety of the Australian milk supply.
"The approved food colours used in flavoured milk have been used safely for decades and FSANZ reviews all new evidence about the safety of food colours," she said.