Foodstuffs (Colouring Matter)

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1964.

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Mrs. Butler:

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he intends to take on the report of the Food Standards Committee on colouring matters; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

I am bound by the Food and Drugs Act to consult interested parties before any regulations are made. I intend to proceed with all speed.

Mrs. Butler:

Would it not be more satisfactory if the present list of colourings were scrapped altogether and only those colours which have been proved to be safe retained? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear this in mind in his discussions with the trade, and will he take action quickly, realising that the public are completely helpless in this matter, that they have no means of knowing which foodstuffs contain harmful colourings and which do not and that they rely on him to protect them?

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

I do not know whether or not the hon. Lady has read the Committee's Report. If so she will have seen that the Committee points out, in paragraph 8, how unsatisfactory it is that there is so little evidence one way or the other on a number of colours. The Committee says categorically that this matter should be looked into again in the next review, after a five-year period, and the hope is that by then arrangements will be arrived at whereby if satisfactory evidence is brought forward for any colour it can be kept on the list, while if no such satisfactory evidence can be brought forward the colour should be removed. This is the gist of what the Committee says, and it seems good sense indeed.

Mrs. Slater:

Would it not be wiser to adopt the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) and ensure that only those colours about which it is known that there are no adverse effects should be used, rather than wait another five years for a further report, with people in the meantime being compelled to go on buying some foods without knowing whether or not they are having a bad effect on their health? Will the Minister follow my hon. Friend's advice and not wait another five years before being able to give the House more adequate information?

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

No, Sir. It is not as easy as all that. There are many recommendations in the Committee's Report, a number of which, I hope, we will be able to implement in the near future, after the consultations which are incumbent on me under the Act have taken place. As to the hon. Lady's Question about other colours, I think that the line as set out by the Food Standards Committee is the proper line of approach.