September 20/Press Association/London -- The Food Standards Agency pledged today to clarify its advice on a group of common food additives but fell short of warning that all children should avoid them.

Its advice was recently updated following Southampton University research showing links between some E numbers and hyperactivity in youngsters.

Professor Jim Stevenson, who carried out the research, said he believed the effect of the additives posed a threat to psychological health.

However, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) rejected calls to warn that all children should not consume those additives.

Instead it pledged to make its current advice "more explicit" and called on the food industry to reduce its use of additives.

In wake of the Southampton University research the FSA advised that cutting the six food colorings from the diets of hyperactive children might improve behavior.

Environmental and children's campaign groups have called on the watchdog to go further by extending that advice to all children.

HOwever, at a meeting in London today, the FSA's board agreed to wait for the European Food Safety Authority to make a decision on whether the additives should be banned.

In the meantime, the watchdog will re-write its advice to parents concerning the group of E numbers.

FSA chairman Dame Deirdre Hutton said, "We have not been sufficiently helpful to parents. There is a real difficulty for people in looking at every product to see whether it has particular E numbers or not."

The FSA's advice will be made more explicit, clearer and "a bit more helpful" -- although the new wording has yet to be decided.

Dame Deirdre added, "I think there is a general astonishment that industry has not responded more quickly to consumer demand in terms of taking colous out of their food."

Asked to assess the health risk posed by the additives studied in the Southampton University research, Stevenson said that in terms of psychological health the additives' impact was ".. sufficiently great to represent a risk to health."

The additives had slightly increased the overall risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the youngsters studied.

"Is that a threat to health? I think in terms of psychological health it is," Stevenson said.

The Southampton University research showed links between six food colorings and one preservative, and hyperactive behavior in youngsters.

Richard Watts, spokesman for the Children's Food Campaign, called for the additives to be banned.

" Stevenson, who undertook the study on additives, told the FSA that there was the evidence necessary to ban these additives because they do "pose a threat to health," he said.

"Parents will be furious that the FSA has chickened out of taking this vital step to protect their children."

From the September 24, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash