For 'New' read 'Old'

New fears over additives in children's food, trumpets The Guardian.

'Potential link to behaviour problems prompts advice to parents over diet.'
Food safety experts have advised parents to eliminate a series of additives from their children's diet while they await the publication of a new study that is understood to link these ingredients to behaviour problems in youngsters.The latest scientific research into the effect of food additives on children's behaviour is thought to raise fresh doubts about the safety of controversial food colourings and a preservative widely used in sweets, drinks and processed foods in the UK. But the Guardian has learned that it will be several months before the results are published, despite the importance of the findings for children's health. (emphasis mine)

Researchers at Southampton University have tested combinations of synthetic colourings and preservative that an average child might consume in a day to measure what effect they had on behaviour. A source at the university told the food industry's magazine the Grocer last week that their results supported findings first made seven years ago that linked the additives to behavioural problems. (emphasis mine)
Well how outrageous! Waiting until the study receives suitable peer review and is published in a scientific journal - as opposed to THE GROCER!

Isn't that one of the ways we attempt to discover what is solidly based science and what is complete tosh (or even fraud and lies, as about 10% of it eventually turns out to be).

But wait, you say. This study supports findings from a similar study by the same people in 1999 so why should we wait any longer before confiscating those pineapple chunks and sherbet lemons from our kids?

Mmmm, let's see:
Food Standards Agency - Working Group on Food Additives and Behaviour in Children Meeting minutes 13 December 2002

Professor Jim Stevenson of the University of Southampton presented a brief review of a 1-year study that had been funded by the Government in 1999:

“Do food additives cause hyperactivity and behaviour problems in a geographically defined population of 3 and 5 year olds?”

Professor Stevenson summarised the main findings of the study. The Chairman reminded members of the Working Group that the report of this study had been referred to the Committee on Toxicity (COT), (in 2000 and later in 2001). He summarised the observations made, and conclusions drawn by the COT. 

The principal points made were:

  • There had been a large placebo effect
  • There were no changes associated with exposure detected in a clinical setting and only one of 3 parameters deriving from parental observations showed any association.
  • A substantial number of children (55 of 277) were unaffected by the challenge (or indeed displayed improved behaviour), but showed worse behaviour with the placebo.
  • The COT considered that although the observations were consistent with previous data, and statistically significant, the magnitude of the reported effects was small compared with previous research. They concluded that the data did not allow assessment of whether there was an adverse effect of the additives examined in all the children, or a possible idiosyncratic effect in a susceptible sub-group. The COT had considered that the findings warranted further investigations.
The report of the study had been sent to two scientific journals for publication, and was currently with a third journal for consideration. It was agreed that the contractors would let the Group have sight of referees’ concerns/comments, as these could inform the design of future studies. Professor Stevenson noted that he would forward these to the Secretariat with commentary.  The Group was asked to consider the feasibility of funding further studies to determine if there is a relationship in children between exposure to certain food additives and behavioural effects/changes. It was agreed that such studies were feasible and should be supported.
Utterly conclusive, what?

Spit that sweet out boy!