Cadbury has hit back after a UK-based campaign group accused the confectionery giant of “breaking promises” over its use of additives deemed to increase hyperactivity in some children.

The Food Commission yesterday (19 March) slammed Cadbury and Mars for continuing to use the artificial colours in selected lines despite earlier promises to remove them.

The group had criticised Cadbury for continuing to use the six additives in products like Cadbury’s Creme Egg despite pledging in 2007 to discontinue their use.

Action on Additives co-ordinator Anna Glayzer said: “To make these pledges at times of high media attention and then quietly neglect to honour them is simply cynical PR opportunism.”

However, a Cadbury spokesman today insisted that Cadbury had pledged to remove all artificial colours from its range of sweets by the end of 2008 – not from its chocolate.

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“The Food Commission is wrong,” the spokesman told just-food. “We achieved our goal of removing all artificial colours from our sweets range by the end of last year as we promised.”

The spokesman said some products had caused problems for Cadbury, including the need to remove the artificial colour in Cadbury Creme Egg that made the yolk in the filling yellow.

“We didn’t want to replace it with grey,” the spokesman said. “However, we have resolved these and, as of this month, no Creme or Mini Creme Eggs leaving our factories contain artificial colours.”

“We have completed testing on the remaining chocolate brands, to ensure consumers enjoy the same quality, and these will also be switched over in the coming months.”

Last month, the UK’s Food Standards Agency threw its weight behind a voluntary ban on the six food colours.

The move came after researchers at the University of Southampton published the results of a study concluding that certain artificial food colours and additives exacerbate hyperactive behaviour in children.

The FSA has also published a list of companies complying with the voluntary ban on its site. However, the Food Commission said the move did not go far enough.

“At the moment, FSA efforts to enforce the voluntary ban consist of three very short lists hosted on a difficult to find area of the agency’s website,” Glayzer said. “It is of little help to parents and it fails to give an accurate picture of the UK market. A mandatory ban would be simple, effective and would take the burden off the parents.”

Officials at Mars and the FSA could not be reached for immediate comment.