Additives still used in children’s medicines

Additives linked to hyperactivity in children are still used as ingredients in some medicines suitable for toddlers, a report warns.


The Food Commission found 28 of 70 medicines suitable for under 12s contained one or more of the additives. Of those products, 16 could be used by children under the age of three, the independent campaign group found.


The seven E numbers included in the report were part of a Food Standards Agency commissioned study carried out by Southampton University.

Researchers found some evidence of links between combinations of the seven E numbers and increased hyperactivity in children. The E numbers are:
Sunset yellow (E110) – Colouring found in squashes
Carmoisine (E122) – Red colouring in jellies
Tartrazine (E102) – New colouring in lollies, fizzy drinks
Ponceau 4R (E124) – Red colouring
Sodium benzoate (E211) – Preservative
Quinoline yellow (E104) – Food colouring
Allura red AC (E129) – Orange/red food dye

The FSA last year changed its advice to parents whose children showed signs
of hyperactivity, saying that avoiding the E numbers could help the youngsters’ behaviour.

But the Food Commission warned that the six colourings and one preservative contained in the Southampton University study were still appearing in medicines for children. Its online research found that 17 paracetamol products contained one or more of the seven additives.

Four medicated throat syrup products, two ibuprofen products, and five brands of two different antibiotics also contained at least one of the seven E numbers each.

Food Commission spokeswoman Anna Glayzer said ingredient lists were often placed inside medicine packets, making it difficult for parents to avoid unwanted E numbers.


The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said that the use of E number materials in medicine was stringently monitored. But it added: “Many medicines also have a very unpleasant taste and require sweeteners and other flavours to help ensure palatability, especially for children.”

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