Ministers have agreed that six artificial food colourings should be phased out after research found a link with hyperactivity in children.
The Food Standards Agency called for the voluntary removal earlier this year while European regulators work to agree a continent-wide ban. The food colourings should now be phased out by 2009. Campaigners said it was good news, although they accepted many companies had stopped using them already.
In September 2007, UK researchers reported children behaved impulsively and lost concentration after consuming a drink containing additives. In the study, 300 children were randomly given one of three drinks, either a potent mix of colourings and additives, a drink that roughly matched the average daily additive intake of a child of their age or a "placebo" drink with no additives.
Their hyperactivity levels were measured before and afterwards, and researchers found that the drink with the highest level of additives had a "significantly adverse" effect compared with the placebo drink.
The six colourings concerned are found in many products such as sweets, confectionery, processed food and takeaways. In light of the research, the FSA advised parents of hyperactive children to be aware of the potential risks of consuming the colourings.