FSANZ - displaying their true colours

It is now old news that the Southampton University conducted some clinical research into the effects of food-colourings on children's behaviours.

To sum up the study from having only read the abstract, it seems the study was well conducted - the participants and the observers were not aware of who was getting the food colourings (ie double blind placebo). The results showed a statistically significant result, ie there was a one in twenty chance that the results were a fluke.

Unless there was something more I am missing, I would have to conclude this study demonstrated that food-colourings are very likely to be affecting the bahaviour of children.

I don't know if anyone has found a serious flaw in the experiment design, so till then I will join the chorus of the righteously concerned - a group you will note I don't always like to be associated with.

I do not wish to go on record supporting a ban, on the principle that banning something because of concerns for someone's health is a bad precendent. It gives the message that consumers cannot think for themselves and need a Nanny state to look after them. After all, it is this attitude that has resulted in our current laws that ban farm-gate milk sales.

It seems that when it comes to food colourings, Australia and New Zealands food authority have the same concern as I, that consumers need to make the informed decision, and that consumers have a right to choose to have yellow lollies even if it means their children will be up all night jumping on the bed.

To quote the FSANZ spokeswoman: Lydia Buchtmann from Food Standards Australia New Zealand said the agency was monitoring research on food colourings. "Even with known allergens such as peanuts, we don't handle that by banning the allergen. It's handled by labelling. By law, all those colourings and additives have to be listed on the label so if you know you or your child has a reaction to that colouring, you can see it on the label and you don't buy the product."

So when it comes to raw milk and raw milk cheeses, the infinitesimal risk of a food-borne pathogen is enough to make these food products outlawed, despite their unique culinary and nutritional properties. As in the opinion of FSANZ, the benefits do not outweight the risk. Applying this same risk benefit calculation, we can assume that the benefits of having a yellow food colouring in our lollies must be huge! what these benefits are, I cannot fathom!

We must however be thankful that FSANZ do recognise the unique culinary value of peanuts, their unique flavours, their nutrition, and the wonderful contribution they make to our food culture.

So while you may hope for the day when Australians can enjoy unique local produced cheeses, or the right to buy milk from a farm nearby, we should be thankful that until then, we can at least enjoy some peanut butter or a packet of gelatine-sugar snakes with TARTRAZINE E102. Yes, what informed consumer would wish to forfeit their right to have their lollies coloured in a way nature never intended?

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