Food Commission watchdog conducted a study of 41 popular medicines for babies and young children and found that all of them but one contained additives that have been banned from food and drinks for this age group.
Most of the additives used can cause side effects like stomach upsets, diarrhoea, skin rashes and allergic reactions.
Among the notorious over-the-counter products, popular ones like teething gel, Nurofen for children, Calpol paracetemol, and cough syrups manufactured by Beecham's, Benylin, Buttercup and Tixilyx were also found harmful ingredients.
Among the chemicals found were four different azo dye colourings, eight benzoate and two sulphite preservatives, and six types of artificial sweetener.
Azo dyes were found in Anbesol teething gel, Buttercup infant cough syrup, Calpol paracetamol, Sudafed children's syrup and Superdrug children's chesty cough syrup. They cause allergies such as asthma.
Preservatives found were usually benzoates. They are linked to skin and eye irritation and wheezing, sulphite preservatives are suspected of causing the immune system to go into overload and contraction of the airways. Some of the drugs even included two or three preservatives.
Sweeteners that were found in medicines were sorbitol, maltitol and xylitol often have laxative effects. Meltus dry coughs syrup even contained chloroform that has been banned in all foods back in 1980.
Additives used in drugs have been linked to hyperactivity in children, aggression, sleeplessness and lack of balance.
It does not mean that every child will develop am allergic reaction. But that is not the point. The point is that the possibilities of experiencing allergic reactions to medicines need to be cut down. It is up to manufacturers to remove any unnecessary additives and they should be forced by the law.
It is possible to flavour medicines with natural oils or extracts, and natural colourings such as beetroot and beta-carotene can be used instead of azo dyes.
However, director of legal and regulatory affairs Helen Darracott said natural colourings and flavours were not very stable in liquids so could not be used in medicines. Additionally, the amounts of additives in medicines are small and taken for short periods of time.
She probably meant: “What’s the harm???”