EFSA to further evaluate study on food colours and behaviour - Panel to prioritise safety assessment of six study colours

Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have completed an initial consideration of new research commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency on food colours and hyperactivity in children and have decided a further detailed assessment of the study is required.

The AFC[1] Panel considering the new research will ask for additional information from the UK Food Standards Agency and, to assist the Panel in its work, EFSA has provided it with a preliminary evaluation of the study’s statistical design based on available data. In the meantime, EFSA is also pushing ahead with its review of all currently permitted food colours and is prioritising the six colours used in the study.

The Panel identified a number of central issues which it will study in depth, including the robustness of the study design and methodology, the statistical analysis, the role of genetic predisposition, and the clinical significance of the findings for individuals or the population in general.

Examination of these aspects will enable the Panel to assess the implications of the findings and their relevance for drawing definitive conclusions on cause and effect and the possible role of particular colours.

The AFC Panel has noted that the study carried out by Southampton University is the largest conducted so far on whether certain food additives may affect behaviour in children and has the potential to shed new light on this important question.

The Panel will examine the study in depth with the help of additional scientists and clinicians with expertise in child psychology and behaviour, allergy and analysis of clinical trials.

EFSA expects to complete its assessment by the end of January 2008, thereby responding to the request of the European Commission to provide an opinion on the study.

The study commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency and carried out by Southampton University is published in The Lancet

[1] Panel on additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food (AFC)

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