Compulsory warnings on colours in food and drink

United Kingdom

Under EU regulation 1333/2008, which came into effect on 20 July 2010, it is now mandatory on an EU-wide scale for any food products that still contain colours thought to cause hyperactivity in some children to be labelled with an appropriate warning. This is following the Southampton Study, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, which suggested a possible link between consumption of six food colours and hyperactivity in children.

The ‘Southampton Six’ colours are Tartrazine (E102), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Sunset Yellow (E110), Carmoisine (E122), Ponceau 4R (E124) and Allura Red (E129).

Any foodstuffs containing any of the aforementioned six colours (including drinks, with the exception of those beverages that contain more than 1.2% alcohol) will now have to be labelled with the following warning:-‘name or E number of the colour(s)’ may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’. This statement should be located in a conspicuous place, easily visible, clearly legible and indelible.

Products manufactured before 20 July 2010 can continue to be marketed, so it may take some time for products labelled in accordance with regulation 1333/2008 to appear on store shelves.

The new mandatory warning will make it easier for consumers to choose products that are free from the colours in question, and may also lead producers to seek to reformulate their recipes and look to alternatives that won’t impact on taste, raise allergenicity or cost/supply issues. It may also be the case that this will be an opportunity to highlight changes in subsequent advertising (although care must of course be taken in any claims made, particularly in those relating to products aimed at children).