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Food additives and preschool children

  • Danika M. Martyn (a1), Breige A. McNulty (a1), Anne P. Nugent (a1) and Michael J. Gibney (a1)


Food additives have been used throughout history to perform specific functions in foods. A comprehensive framework of legislation is in place within Europe to control the use of additives in the food supply and ensure they pose no risk to human health. Further to this, exposure assessments are regularly carried out to monitor population intakes and verify that intakes are not above acceptable levels (acceptable daily intakes). Young children may have a higher dietary exposure to chemicals than adults due to a combination of rapid growth rates and distinct food intake patterns. For this reason, exposure assessments are particularly important in this age group. The paper will review the use of additives and exposure assessment methods and examine factors that affect dietary exposure by young children. One of the most widely investigated unfavourable health effects associated with food additive intake in preschool-aged children are suggested adverse behavioural effects. Research that has examined this relationship has reported a variety of responses, with many noting an increase in hyperactivity as reported by parents but not when assessed using objective examiners. This review has examined the experimental approaches used in such studies and suggests that efforts are needed to standardise objective methods of measuring behaviour in preschool children. Further to this, a more holistic approach to examining food additive intakes by preschool children is advisable, where overall exposure is considered rather than focusing solely on behavioural effects and possibly examining intakes of food additives other than food colours.

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Corresponding author

* Corresponding author: D. M. Martyn, fax +353 1 716 1147, email


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