The European Food Standards Authority has confirmed that it will be considering the FSA-funded study on certain food additives and children's behaviour as part of its current review of additive safety.
The study, published in The Lancet last week, found evidence of some connection between certain mixtures of colourings and the preservative sodium benzoate and hyperactivity in children. It has attracted much media attention and consternation in the UK, where even Prime Minister Gordon Brown saw fit to pass comment on why parents should be worried.
The FSA said from the get-go that it will be forwarding the study and the views of its toxicology committee, which reviewed them in detail, to EFSA. EFSA has now confirmed that it will be taking the findings into consideration as part of its on-going re-evaluation of the safety of all food colours.
The FSA was rather cautious in its response to the study, saying that eliminating them from the diet could have some benefits for hyperactive kids or those with ADHD, but that this should not be seen as a panacea for children's behaviour difficulties.
It also recognised efforts that have been made by the industry to develop more natural alternatives. The indication is that it is looking to the European body to instigate action - and that EFSA is preparing to step up to the challenge.
Indeed, EFSA has said that some of the colours included in the experimental mixes are priorities for its case-by-case review.
"For instance, Allura Red will most likely be one of the next opinions to be adopted and published next year," it said.
So far EFSA has issued an opinion on just one food colour, Red 2G (which was permitted for use in sausages and burgers), deeming it to be a carcinogen. As a result, swift action was taken to ban it.
In time, all colours presently permitted for food use in the EU - both natural and artificial, and numbering around 45 - will be subject to review, since new safety data has become available since they were approved, in some cases decades ago.
The authority is starting with colours as these dominated the first spate of approvals. It expects to complete the process by end of 2008.