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Food Additives

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 19 May 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received from consumers about the removal of artificial colour from manufactured food; and if he will make a statement.

The Food Additives and Contaminants Committee is at present carrying out a full review of our regulations controlling the use of colouring matters in food. The committee has received representations from consumer organisations, and these are being taken into account along with those from other organisations. The committee is making good progress with this complex review, but it is too soon yet to say when the report will be published.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. In the meantime, in view of the growing public and medical concern about the vast amount of artificial colouring in food, all of which is expensive and unnecessary and none of which is really healthy, will he consider initiating discussions with food manufacturers with a view to trying to phase out artificial colouring, at least from baby food and food that is mainly consumed by children?

I agree with my hon. Friend's basic contention that this is a matter for particular concern as it affects food consumed by babies and children. The committee is giving special attention to this matter. I reassure my hon. Friend by pointing out that the committee is free at any time during the review to draw attention to any colourings that it would like removed forthwith.

Will the committee be considering the regulations that at present prevent his Department from publicising a good deal of the information made available by food manufacturers on food additives? Will he bear in mind that there are about 35,000 additives of different sorts and that the United States has banned the use of Brown FK, which is used in 99 per cent. of kippers and in many other sweets and food products in this country? Will he consider giving early consideration to this matter when the subject comes up for review when the EEC directive permitting its use ends next year?

I shall bring that point to the attention of the committee. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that the committee has a high standing not only in the United Kingdom but internationally. I am sure that he will respect its findings and judgment.