UK supermarkets and retailers are facing a rising tide of consumer concern and pressure over the usage of artificial colouings and flavourings in their food and drink products that are consumed by children .
Most leading retailers are having to review their policies, with Sainsbury’s expected to become the first major supermarket to carry out a ban on artificial colours and flavourings from its own-label soft drinks as of June 1.
The grocery retailer said the ban is the result of “overwhelming” demand from parents, who are concerned about E number additives and artificial flavours and their possible links with children’s behaviour/hyperactivity, allergies, and breathing problems .
Tesco and Marks &Spencer are both following in Sainsbury’s footsteps, with the retailers’ planning on phasing them out where they are still being used.
Sainsbury’s will apply the ban to its entire range of more than 120 own-brand drinks, both soft and fizzy, squash and cordials, and mixers with alcohol, such as tonic water.
The supermarket is replacing aspartame with sucralose – a low-calorie sweetener made from sugar, while the largely used artificial colouring, sulphite ammonia caramel (E150d), will also be removed from its cola drinks.
The chemicals will generally be replaced by fruit and vegetable extracts and natural colours, while flavourings will be from named fruits and other natural sources.
Marks &Spencer said it is working to remove the one remaining artificial colour from its colas, and added that none of its soft drinks contain aspartame, or artificial flavouring, while all its soft drinks except colas contain natural colours.
Its range of children’s ready meals do not contain any added preservatives, artificial colours, flavourings or sweeteners, and the permitted additives that are used had been agreed with the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group (HCSG).
A Tesco statement read: “We have a couple of fruit-flavoured fizzy drinks which contain artificial additives that will be removed by the summer . We use natural, fruit-based sweeteners in all of our drinks that are labelled for children or are in our ‘kids’ range.”
“We have had an ‘additives hit-list’ for more than 20 years and in particular target colours and additives highlighted by the HCSG. We are conducting a review regarding ‘nature identical’ additives in our drinks.”
Sally Bunday, founder of the HCSG said Sainsbury’s move was fantastic news.
“This is an important public health issue which manufacturers can no longer brush under the carpet . We hope that this announcement from Sainsbury’s will lead other soft drink manufacturers and supermarkets to follow suit .”