A ban on certain additives in food could be in place as early as next year after research showed it could cut hyperactivity in children by a third and reduce anti-social behaviour.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) wants six artificial colourings to be removed from products after an official study branded them as damaging to children's brains as the lead in petrol.
A meeting tomorrow will consider recommendations that manufacturers should be told to voluntarily remove the additives from their products because of the research by Southampton University.
Officials have already told the Agency, after discussions with British companies, that it is likely they would be able to introduce satisfactory alternative ingredients by the end of this year but a ban could follow if they fail to do so.
A website set up by the Food Commission lists more than 1000 items containing the colourings, ranging from Pepsi Max, Galaxy Minstrels, Cadbury's Creme Eggs and Haribo sweets.
Their removal could lead to the total demise of some products such as mushy peas and Turkish delight, which the FSA has warned "might be lost to the market temporarily or even permanently".
In a £750,000 study published in September, Southampton University concluded the E-numbers were significantly damaging children's intelligence.
The six colourings, including tartrazine (E102) and sunset yellow (E110), were found to be causing temper tantrums in normal children.
Professor Jim Stevenson, who lead the research, said he believed they posed a threat to children's psychological health.
More research is now being carried out on a preservative, sodium benzoate, which is used in a lot of fizzy drinks.
The FSA was criticised by health groups for failing to ban the additives in the wake of the devastating report and choosing instead to rely on the Committee on Toxicology's view that they only had a moderate effect on some children.
It decided to work with manufacturers and await the verdict of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which last month said the research had only provided "limited evidence of a small effect" on the activity and attention of some children.
But apparently angry at the lack of action, Prof Stevenson recently to the agency calling for something to be done immediately.
His letter, published in the Independent, warned: "We would argue that the findings from our own study and the previous research overviewed by the Efsa would lead to the same conclusion as was reached by Professor Sir Michael Rutter in relation to lead in 1983 - namely that for food colours there is 'justification for action now'."
Leaded petrol was finally phased out in 2000, almost 20 years after researchers warned it was stunting the development of children's brains.
In tomorrow's meeting, the FSA will also consider several options including taking no action, asking for point-of-sale notices in stores, removing the colouring only from foods eaten extensively by children or restricting their use to products where there are no alternatives.
The other four colourings are Quinoline yellow (E104), Carmoisine (E122), Ponceau 4R (E124) and Allura red (E129).
Health | Food | Kids | Children | Hyperactivity | Anti-social Behaviour | Food Additives | Childrens Intelligence | Temper Tantrums | Psychological Health