A three-year programme of research conducted by Southampton University for the Food Standards Agency gave drinks to children containing the E-number additives E110, E102, E122, E124, E129, 104 and the preservative sodium benzoate, E211. The children were then monitored by teachers, parents, and trained observers. Some older children also underwent a 'hyperactivity test'.
The results showed that all drinks containing the additives caused a rise in signs of hyperactivity when compared to placebo drinks. These included switching acitivities, interrupting, talking rapidly and fiddling with objects or their own bodies.
Writing in the Lancet, study leader Professor Jim Stevenson said:
'The present findings, in combination with the replicated evidence for artificial food colour and additives effects on the behaviour of three-year-old children, lent strong support for the case that food additives exacerbate hyperactive behaviours.'
The Food Standards Agency has refused to introduce a ban on food additives, but has instead chosen to advise parents that they should consider removing products with the additives from their child's diet if they 'show signs of hyperactivity or ADHD'.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist September 2007