A combination of cola and certain orange processed foods make my youngest son quite uncontrollable. It can be entertaining for a few minutes but I would hate to have to deal with him in a classroom. Mostly he is deprived of the junk he craves by a puritanical father but I sometimes relent at the cinema with the result that he once had to be physically restrained in the aisle half way through Lord of the Rings. The Food Standards Agency deserves some credit for sponsoring Southampton University to do the research that confirms beyond doubt what many parents and teachers have known for decades; certain additives in highly processed foods send certain children up the wall. Perhaps more disturbing is the finding that these foods can cause a “deterioration in behaviour in the general population”.
How can it be ok to knowingly feed our children unnecessary colourings and preservatives that radically alter their behaviour? How can we be expected to trust our government and its regulating authority the FSA when, after consultation with the food and drink industry but no one else, it refuses to act on its own research? Why has it taken thirty years for science to “prove” what many parents know from their own living experiment of raising children? Isn’t it an abdication of governmental responsibility to suggest that we make our judgements based on labels read by few and intelligible to even fewer?
Very few issues are so black and white and call so unambiguously for government action, NOW. It is all too reminiscent of tobacco and cancer, asbestos and asbestosis, BSE and CJD and more recently the continuing abuse of antibiotics in agriculture, the rise of MRSA and general antibiotic resistance. Commercial interests, protected by cynical PR and intense lobbying, have built expertise at delaying legislative action so that a profit stream can be maintained for a few more years. There is no doubt that these additives will be banned but when the evidence is so clear why does it have to be such a painstaking process, subject to delay at every turn? The FSA was set up after a collapse in public confidence in the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food after BSE. It was supposed to be independent of commercial interests. The problem seems to be that the name might have changed but the spineless nature of the bureaucrats hasn’t.