In the wake of a damning scientific report on the health effects of artificial additives, Cadbury Trebor Bassett and Mars UK today said they are cutting the chemicals from their products.
Both confectionery companies claim to be replacing artificial additives in their products as part of programmes that started last year. They were responding to a University of Southampton study released last week that linked artificial food colourings and additives with heightened hyperactivity in children, at least up to the age of nine.
While industry organisations have said more work is needed to determine the full health effects of each additive, individual companies have been taking the initiative in cutting them out of their products.
Mars clams its Starburst, Skittles and M&M's will be free from artificial colours by the end of this year, while Cadbury has said it will have replaced all artificial colours in all confectionary products by 2008.
"We are committed to replacing all artificial colours in our sweets," Cadbury Trebor Bassett said in a statement. "We note the Southampton University findings, but we had begun this process already because we are continually listening to our consumers."
Cadbury said earlier this year that it has developed a new low-calorie and additive free version of Bassett's Allsorts, and is in the process of developing a more natural version of Wine Gums.
"This programme has been underway for over a year, starting with Bassett's Allsorts and Jelly Babies," Cadbury stated. "On top, we recently launched a new range of products, which is free of artificial colours, under the brand name of The Natural Confectionery Company."
Mars also released a statement in relation to the recent Southampton University study.
"Mars is removing artificial colours as part of an ongoing programme, which was begun in 2006," a Mars spokesperson said. "Starburst will be free from all artificial colours by the end of the year. Skittles will be free from all the artificial colours highlighted in the study by Southampton University by the end of this year."
Sunset yellow (E110), tartrazine (E102), carmosine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124), quinoline yellow (E104), and allura red (E129) were the colourings used in the study on children. Sodium benzoate (E110), a preservative, was also included.
"We have already removed four colours mentioned in the Southampton study from Peanut and Choco M&M's and we will remove E104 by the end of this year," the spokesperson stated. "We will continue to review the use of additives in our brand portfolio. All additives are clearly listed on the packs."
The Southampton study is not the first to have highlighted the link between food additives and hyperactivity, and so food manufacturers have been under pressure to remove these artificial additives for several years.
Nestle Rowntree recently announced it will remove artificial additives from its Milky Way chocolate brand following the scientific and consumer concerns over them.
"Responding to the growing market trend for permissibility in confectionery, Milkybar is the first major kids' chocolate brand to make the move to all natural ingredients," Nestle UK said earlier this month.
Nestle have already removed colourings and additives from several brands over the past few years including Smarties and Rowntree's, as well as increasing the level of real fruit juice in the Fruit Pastille, Fruit Gums and Jelly Tots brands to 25 per cent in June this year.
A study conducted by University of Southampton researchers and released last week linked artificial food colourings and additives with heightened hyperactivity in children, at least up to the age of nine.
Based upon the study, the Food Standards Agency advised parents that the elimination of artificial additives from the diets of hyperactive children could lead to benefits.
The food colourings and additives used in the study are common in beverages and snacks often targeted at children.