Wednesday September 5, 2007 (Foodconsumer.org) -- A combination of artificial colorants and sodium benzoate in beverages and processed foods can cause hyperactivity or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in young children, according to U.K researchers who published their finding Thursday in the British medical journal of The Lancet.
The researchers from Southampton University in southern England conducted a small trial involving 153 children ages 3 and 144 children ages eight or nine and found "Overall, children who took the mix moved about 10 percent closer to the definition of being hyperactive."
For the trial, the researchers prepared two drinks with an ordinary fruit juice and mix A or Mix B.
Mix A contained artificial colors and sodium benzoate at the level typically found in a couple of 56-gram bags of sweets and Mix B contained a higher level of artificial colors found in four bags of sweets.
The amount of sodium benzoate was the same in both drinks.
Both drinks tasted and looked the same. The children were assigned either drinks or a placebo for six weeks.
During the intervention, children were monitored by professionals to see how the children behaved.
Mixtures of the artificial food colors and benzoate preservative adversely influenced the behavior of children, according to the trial.
The three-year olds were significantly affected by Mix A, but not by Mix B while the older children were strongly influenced by both Mix A and Mix B.
In the new trial, according to the AFP, Mix A was made of 45mg of sodium benzoate and 20mg of artificial food colorants including sunset yellow (European food code E110), carmoisine (E122); tartrazine (E102); and ponceau 4R (E124).
Mix B was made of 45mg of sodium benzoate and 30mg of colourants including sunset yellow (E110); carmoisine (E122); quinoline yellow (E110) and allura red AC (E129).
Ian Tokelove, a spokesperson for The Food Commission, commented
"These artifical colourings may brighten up processed foods and drinks but it appears they have the potential to play havoc with some children’s behaviour. Manufacturers should clean up their act and remove these additives, which are neither needed or wanted in our food.”
Sodium benzoate can form benzene, an cancer-causing agent, when reacting with vitamin C and also cause cirrhosis of the liver and degenerative disease such as Parkinson's disease, according to Dr. Peter Piper at
University in the