§ Mr. Willie W. Hamilton
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has had concerning the problems of hyperactive children; what evidence is available to him about the relationship between this condition and the use of food colourings and other artificial additives in food and drink; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. John Patten
We have received 14 letters recently from hon. Members who have apparently had representations made from supporters of the Hyperactive Children's Support Group. The group seeks support from the Government and DHSS for its objectives.
I am advised that, despite a number of studies, mainly in the United States, there is at present no conclusive evidence about the suggested relationship between hyperactivity and the use of additives in food and drink. It is important to recognise that hyperactivity is a symptom which occurs in many conditions. The diagnosis of hyperkinetic—hyperactive—syndrome—where there is no associated possible causative condition—is a rare one in the United Kingdom, where many of the children would be regarded as having a conduct disorder.
The hypothesis that in some of these children food additives may be a causative factor is as yet unproven. At present the Medical Research Council, which receives its funds as a grant-in-aid under the science budget of the Department of Education and Science, is specifically supporting one trial in this area on oligo-antigenic diet in 3 to 12-year-old hyperactive children; an epidemiological inquiry into hyperactivity in children is also in progress. The results of both studies when available may clarify these problems.
I should point out that the indiscriminate use of dietary restrictions in all children exhibiting hyperactive behaviour carries both physical and psychological risks to the child, and may lead to neglect of other more appropriate treatment, including educational, behavioural and psychological approaches.