EU food chiefs have rejected calls to ban additives which trigger hyperactive behaviour in children.
The decision has appalled UK campaigners who insist millions of youngsters will be left exposed to harm.
A link between hyperactive behaviour and the substances used to colour sweets, drinks and medicines was established in a British study published last year. University of Southampton researchers warned the additives "damage the psychological health" of children. The study was funded and designed by scientists from Britain's Food Standards Agency.
However, the European Food Safety Authority has decided flaws in the way the research was drawn up mean it does not offer definitive evidence of a risk to the general population. This means there is no legal reason for manufacturers to remove the suspect additives.
Products known to include the additives range from Cadbury Creme Eggs to Fanta and Calpol.
The Southampton research team is adamant it identified "significant adverse effects" among healthy children given drinks containing a cocktail of additives.
The campaigning food and health group, Sustain, condemned the European authority's stance and called on Britain to impose a unilateral ban. Campaigns director Richard Watts said: "No one now disputes these artificial additives pose a threat to children's health and well being. Given EFSA has let down consumers, our own FSA must now act to remove them from the food chain."
The additives linked to hyperactive behaviour are the colours Tartrazine (E102); Quinoline Yellow (E104); Sunset Yellow (E110); Carmoisine (E122); Ponceau 4R (E124); and Allura Red (E129). The preservative Sodium Benzoate(E211) is also implicated.
The authority found the study "provided limited evidence that the mixtures of additives tested had a small effect on the activity and attention of some children". But it cited "considerable uncertainties", including a lack of consistency and the absence of information-on the clinical significance of the behaviour changes observed.
The findings amount to an indictment of the FSA, which appears to have failed to ensure the research was properly designed.
Source - Daily Mail