Pharmaceuticals Anonymous

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Are our children being poisoned by their sweets?

What I've discovered about chemical food colourings and preservatives terrifies me, as it should the most happy-go-lucky parent. British sweet manufacturers, I've had to conclude, no longer deserve our trust.

Six commonly used colourings in sweets, soft drinks and even children's medicines have now been proven to cause attention disorder and hyperactivity in children - not just those already prone to such problems, but all children.

What that means is that the notorious 'sugar rush' that we've all seen in children on a sweetie or pop binge may not be caused by sugar at all, but by obscure colourings and preservatives.

And there are added dangers from these completely unnecessary chemicals. My daughter, like nearly one in 20 British children, is prone to allergies: in her case, severe asthma that means a trip to A & E once a month during winter.

During my investigation, I found dangerous colourings and preservatives in famous names such as Cadbury Roses chocolates, Maynards, Wrigley's gum, Jawbreakers, Jelly Babies, Kiddies Mix, Refreshers, Lovehearts, Hubba Bubba bubble gum and Fizz Bombs, as well as a huge range of corner-shop sweets sold as Nisha's or Family Favourites.

Novelty sweets branded on Bratz dolls and cartoon character Scooby-Doo had them too. A build-it-yourself gingerbread house from the John Lewis toy department had more bad dyes than any other item I found.

If it's cheaply made and highly coloured, it seems, it's more likely than not to have an 'azo-dye' (a synthetic nitrogen-based compound dye) in it - and that includes all the children's favourites: the snakes, marshmallows and bootlaces sold loose in corner shops.

The chief villains - the ones everyone agrees are dangerous - are mainly colours derived from coal tar. These are known as the 'Dirty Six' and go under the names sunset yellow (or E number 110), carmoisine (E122), tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red (E129).

They're reds and yellows, and commonly found in sweets, jellies, ice lollies, fizzy drinks and many obviously coloured foods, such as icing on cakes. Three of them have been linked with asthma and other allergies. Many of them are banned in medicines, or must carry warnings.

All of them, government scientists now agree, can cause or exacerbate hyperactivity or attention disorder.