Press Centre

Supermarket calls on competitors & brands to remove artificial colours & flavours from all food & soft drink products

ASDA today called on competitors and brands alike to commit to the removal of all artificial colours, flavours and flavour enhancers from food and soft drink products by 2010.

Whilst ASDA has led the industry with the removal of artificial colours and flavours, hydrogenated vegetable oil and flavour enhancers (such as monosodium glutamate) from all its own label food and soft drink products, other supermarkets and many big brands have yet to make such a move.

This is resulting in the consumption of thousands of tonnes of unnecessary additives by UK consumers every year, despite research from the University of Southampton, supported by the Food Standards Agency, which shows that some artificial colours could cause or make children more hyperactive.

To help the rest of the industry catch up, ASDA is writing to competitors and suppliers offering to hold ‘open book’ discussions about the challenges it has faced re-formulating products and to share information on natural alternatives that have been identified to artificial colours and flavours.

From the start of this year, ASDA has not produced any products containing artificial colours, flavours or hydrogenated vegetable oil.

This has seen the supermarket moving faster than any other and represents an investment of more than £30 million in reformulating over 9,000 own label product lines which go into millions of shopping trolleys every week.

In contrast, Tesco and Morrison’s have not yet re-formulated any of their own label product ranges in this way and it’s a mixed bag elsewhere.

Sainsbury’s has removed artificial colours and flavours from its own label crisps, ready meals and soft drinks but has not yet made the same investment in all its other own label food ranges, whilst M&S has stripped artificial colours and flavours out of its own label food but not yet removed artificial colours from its soft drinks.

Darren Blackhurst, Food Trading Director at ASDA, comments: “We know the nation’s shoppers are becoming more and more concerned about what’s in the food they buy and we want to do all we can to make natural, healthy food as affordable and accessible as possible for everyone.

“We’ve worked overtime for the last few years to strip out unnecessary additives such as artificial colours and flavours from all our own label products, and now want to do whatever we can to encourage and help other retailers and big brands to follow suit.”

Sally Bunday MBE of the Hyperactive Children Support Group comments: “We represent thousands of families with hyperactive children and, without doubt, stripping additives out of their diet can play an important role in helping to regulate their behaviour.

“We applaud ASDA for the work they’ve done to remove artificial colours, flavours and flavour enhancers from all their own label food and soft drinks and very much hope that other companies that are feeding the nation’s children will now follow their lead.”

ASDA has worked hard to ensure that, as far as possible, the taste and appearance of its products are not affected by their re-formulation.

However, there are a few products where the removal of artificial colours is challenging customers to judge products by their taste and not by their appearance.

The removal of Tartrazine (E102) from ASDA’s mushy peas, for example, means the peas are now a paler hue, as they lose much of their natural green colour when cooked, rather than the familiar bright green colour that customers have come to expect. The taste, however, has not been affected at all by the change.

Posted in Press Centre on 27 March 2008