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The European Parliament has adopted a measure that would see mandatary warning labels on colourings linked to hyperactivity in children by a study published last year in the UK.

The provision was added to a package of reforms in response to the publication of the study which had been commissioned by the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

“As new scientific data on health risks for children exposed to azo-dyes had emerged since Parliament’s first reading, MEPs managed to include in the compromise a new provision that foods containing some of those food colours (colourings E 110, E 104, E 122, E 129, E 102 and E 124) must be labelled not only with the relevant E number but also with the words ‘may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’,” an official European Parliament communiqué stated. The measure could become EU law within around 18 months.

The vote in the European Parliament marks the latest official response to the Southampton Study which was published in September. Initially, the FSA made only a minor amendment to its guidance on the colourings, but referred the research to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, EFSA stated in March that it did not consider the study grounds to change its position regarding the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of the additives.

Subsequently, however, the FSA announced that it was recommending the voluntary withdrawal of the additives in the UK and advising UK ministers to push for an outright ban throughout the EU.

The European food industry body, the CIAA, criticised the European Parliament’s move on the grounds that it appeared to be at odds with the current EFSA position.

“CIAA is disappointed with the decision regarding the provisions on labelling requirements for foods containing certain colours, which ignores the findings of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the independent scientific body responsible for food safety and consumer protection in the EU,” the CIAA said.

“The specific colours listed have all been authorised as safe for use and the EFSA opinion on the Southampton study concluded that it contained several weaknesses and that there was no reason to change the official position that these additives are safe for use.”