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Do health issues boost food brands?

Artificial food additives can cause hyperactivity in children according to a recent study by the Food Standards Authority. This increased the pressure on the food and drinks industry to remove them. Here you can see a short video on how important the public think it is to eat healthily.

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An increasing number of brands are focusing on promoting their products as healthy including Dairy Crest, which is launching a £4m marketing campaign to promote the reduced fat content in its Utterly Butterly range, writes Nikki Sandison. In addition to the reduced fat range Dairy Crest is also launching an Omega 3 version of the product, because Omega 3 fatty acids are believed to help combat heart disease.

Many children, not just those with hyperactive conditions can become more impulsive, inattentive and hyperactive from artificial food colourings and other additives found in drinks, sweets and processed foods, according to research published in the medical journal, The Lancet.

Cadbury and Mars have promised to remove artificial additives from a range of their sweets following the report. Mars has committed to removing E104 from peanut and Choco M&Ms and all artificial colours from Starburst and Skittles by the end of the year. The confectionery giant has already removed four of the artificial colours mentioned in the study.

Cadbury Trebor Bassett sweets containing additives include Maynards wine gums, Bassett Murray Mints, Barratt Flumps and varieties of its Trident chewing gum. Cadbury has already begun a programme to replace artificial additives in its biggest brands including Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts and Jelly Babies but has now extended that to all other sweet brands by the end of 2008.

The FSA study began in 2004 at Southampton University and recorded the responses of 153 3-year-olds and 144 8 to 9-year-olds to "cocktails" of common additives. Jim Stevenson, professor of psychology at the university, who led the research, said that it provided clear evidence that children who have not been diagnosed with hyperactive behaviour or shown any signs of it can be adversely influenced. The additives included sodium benzoate, a common preservative in soft drinks, jams and salad dressing.

The FSA sent the findings to the European Food Safety Authority and while it could increase the pressure on manufacturers to stop using certain food colourings, there are no plans to call a ban. A number of academics and pressure groups have criticised the government watchdog for not taking a stronger stance with the food industry.

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