The food additive warriors have obviously got desperate but their last fling has won them the publicity battle by fraud. The extraordinary study below (Excerpt from The Times plus journal abstract) tells us NOTHING about actual food. Prior studies have not given the adverse effects hypothesized so this time they just gave kids cocktails of chemicals in fruit juice. And some kids were slightly affected by some of the cocktails.

But the procedure is scientifically amazing. Components of any complex process must be examined in situ if we are to draw any bottom-line conclusions — witness the poor transferability of in vitro to in vivo results. It is entirely possible for a chemical to be deleterious in one situation or combination and not in another. And it is known that the interaction of chemicals in food is very complex. So this research tells us nothing about what effects the chemicals would have in their normal applications.

Furthermore, the practice of giving a cocktail of chemicals also renders the whole exercise a virtual nullity. For all we know, the adverse effects could all have been caused by just one chemical in the mix! Normal scientific procedure is one of control. We try to vary NOTHING BUT the one variable under examination. That is the only way we can be sure that any given variable has some effect. So this study tells us nothing about any of the variables concerned.

It is of course possible that the various chemicals have to interact to produce a deleterious effect but that just underlines how negligent it was not to test their effect in situ. If interactions are important, it is important to show that the interactions being examined are real-life ones.

Sadly, however, despite its scientific nullity, the study would seem to have given the food fanatics the ammunition to get banned many useful additives that make food safer and more attractive. That they published such irresponsible rubbish is however another blot on the escutcheon of Lancet and shows again what a political propaganda outfit they have become. The irrational Greenie nature-worshippers have been facilitated in another one of their Quixotic crusades.


I thought that a quote about the study preceding this one was pretty amusing:

A further limitation of the earlier study design was the observed ‘placebo effect’. A large proportion of children in the first study were unaffected (or, in some cases, showed an improvement in behaviour) when on the additives mix, but showed worsening when on the placebo

What pesky results! The additives were actually good for some children!

Another amusing point: There were two additive mixes in the study below and only one had “bad” effects. But the one that had bad effects on the 3 year olds overall did not affect the 8 year olds overall and the one that affected the 8 year olds overall did not affect the 3 year olds overall! What the heck can anybody conclude from that?

By being very strict about which data they allowed into the analysis, the researchers find find both mixes to be bad in the 8 year olds but that simply underlines how marginal the effects were.

Looking at both the prior study and the latest one, it is hard to avoid the impression that the results were essentially random. That some results in the study below apparently reached statistical significance rules out only one source of random effects: small sample size. That is all that a test of statistical significance does.

Britain’s food watchdog is warning all parents today of a clear link between additives and hyperactive behaviour in children. Research for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and published in The Lancet has established the “deleterious effects” of taking a mixture of artifical extras that are added to drinks, sweets and processed foods. It has led the FSA to issue the advice to parents who believe their children to be hyperactive that they should cut out foods containing the E numbers analysed in the study….

The results are certain to cause concern and it is likely many parents will remove or cut down on food and drink products that might provoke such reactions in their children. The problem for many parents will be how to police children’s eating; although most foods are labelled, some sweets are sold loose in shops and school canteens. Schools can now expect to be inundated with requests for the ingredients of food and drink on offer to their pupils to be made known…..

The study builds on tests conducted on the Isle of Wight in 2002 which were inconclusive about links between additives and hyperactivity. Julian Hunt, of the Food and Drink Federation said: “It is important to reassure consumers that the Southampton study does not suggest there is a safety issue with the use of these additives. In addition, the way in which the additives were tested as a mixture is not how they are used in everyday products.


Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial

By Donna McCann et al.

Background: We undertook a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover trial to test whether intake of artificial food colour and additives (AFCA) affected childhood behaviour.

Methods: 153 3-year-old and 144 8/9-year-old children were included in the study. The challenge drink contained sodium benzoate and one of two AFCA mixes (A or B) or a placebo mix. The main outcome measure was a global hyperactivity aggregate (GHA), based on aggregated z-scores of observed behaviours and ratings by teachers and parents, plus, for 8/9-year-old children, a computerised test of attention. This clinical trial is registered with Current Controlled Trials (registration number ISRCTN74481308). Analysis was per protocol.

Findings: 16 3-year-old children and 14 8/9-year-old children did not complete the study, for reasons unrelated to childhood behaviour. Mix A had a significantly adverse effect compared with placebo in GHA for all 3-year-old children (effect size 0.20 [95% CI 0.01-0.39], p=0.044) but not mix B versus placebo. This result persisted when analysis was restricted to 3-year-old children who consumed more than 85% of juice and had no missing data (0.32 [0.05-0.60], p=0.02). 8/9-year-old children showed a significantly adverse effect when given mix A (0.12 [0.02-0.23], p=0.023) or mix B (0.17 [0.07-0.28], p=0.001) when analysis was restricted to those children consuming at least 85% of drinks with no missing data.

Interpretation: Artificial colours or a sodium benzoate preservative (or both) in the diet result in increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population.

The Lancet, September, 2007


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