E numbers still found in young children's medicines can trigger hyperactivity
Drugs such as banana-flavoured penicillin can contain themUK's food watchdog only implemented voluntary banMost complied but some still put them in medicines

Jo Macfarlane


00:19 GMT, 6 January 2013



00:20 GMT, 6 January 2013

E number which can cause hyperactivity in children is still being found in common medicines

E number which can cause hyperactivity in children is still being found in common medicines

Children are being exposed to banned artificial food colourings that can trigger hyperactivity –because they are still in medicines prescribed by GPs.

The damaging E numbers are no longer in most sweets, but the restrictions do not extend to many medicines designed for children.

Drugs which include the substances include banana-flavoured penicillin to treat infections and an antibiotic which contains a red food colouring.

Under EU law, all products containing the additives must carry a health warning because of their links to hyperactivity and attention problems.

But although they are banned in the US, Australia and across Europe, the UK’s Food Standards Agency implemented a voluntary ban only in 2008 that asked the industry to remove the additives.

Most have complied, but many medicines still use them.

Gem Durham, from Birmingham, discovered the additives in banana-flavoured liquid penicillin prescribed to daughter Elizabeth, three, to treat a throat infection.

Mrs Durham, 34, said: ‘As soon as Elizabeth started taking it she was dancing around and singing silly songs. There was no talking to her and she was incapable of listening to instruction.

‘I read the packet and saw it contained the bright yellow colour E104 Quinine. I phoned the GP and asked for an alternative, but it contained E124 Ponceau 4R red colouring.

‘If sweet manufacturers can use natural colourings, why can’t the pharmaceutical industry A child needs to rest if they’re ill, not effectively be drugged up twice.’

A spokeswoman for the FSA said: ‘The agency encourages manufacturers to work towards finding alternatives to these colours.’