SafeFood Home

    Safe Food Campaign media release 4 March 09

    Medicine warning for kids

    Recent reports linking over the counter medicines to deaths and adverse reactions in children highlight the need for children's medicine to be safer. Medicine should also be fully labelled with ingredients and more consumer choice should be given, a newly formed group of parents says.

    Some issues of particular concern include:

    • The inclusion of artificial colours in commonly prescribed children's medicine.
    • The use of the controversial artificial sweetener aspartame which has been linked to a range of health concerns.
    • The lack of labelling making it impossible for parents to know with certainty what additives are present in their children's medicines and so preventing them from making fully informed choices.

    "This situation is all the more deplorable when there is evidence these over the counter medicines are just not effective," says Alison White, Co-convenor of the Safe Food Campaign, speaking on behalf of the parents' group.

    "We have become used to having ingredients fully disclosed in our food, but we are continually frustrated that this regulation does not yet apply to medicine or dietary supplements," declared Ms White. "Consumers have the right to more information than they are getting. We would welcome Medsafe and the Food Safety Authority recommending to the Government that full disclosure of ingredients for medicines and dietary supplements be carried out.

    "We are also concerned about potentially harmful ingredients such as artificial colours and artificial sweeteners in medicines and dietary supplements designed for children, and the lack of choice for parents. It is impossible, for example, to get paracetamol in some children's hospitals without artificial colours and sweeteners. As well, there is no subsidy available for colour free paracetamol at pharmacies."

    Artificial colourings have been associated for many years with hyperactive behaviour, eczema, asthma and other allergic reactions in children. Restrictions on certain artificial colours have recently been enacted in both Britain and Europe. A robust 2007 study commissioned by the British Food Standards Agency concluded that certain food additives including colourings and the preservative sodium benzoate can influence hyperactive behaviour and affect learning. As a result of this study, a voluntary ban on six artificial colours has been requested by the Agency. Major supermarket chains in Britain, as well as Cadbury and Nestle have pledged to remove all artificial colourings from their products. The European Parliament is requiring warning labels on artificially coloured products by the end of 2009.

    In New Zealand and Australia, Nestle have said they would remove artificial colours from Smarties this year. Other food manufacturers, supermarket chains and the regulatory authority Food Standards Australia New Zealand have yet to follow the example set by Britain and Europe.

    "Independent, non-industry-funded research into the artificial sweetener aspartame (951, Equal, Nutrasweet, ‘phenylalanine') shows a range of adverse effects, ranging from mild and transitory to debilitating and life-threatening," said Ms White. "No parent who is aware of adverse effects from this controversial sweetener would want to willingly give medicine, dietary supplements, or indeed any food containing it to their children. Yet often there is very little choice. In New Zealand aspartame is in at least 81 medicines designed for children, and Britain has issued a warning for at least three of these medicines.

    "We want full labelling of medicines and dietary supplements, colour-free and artificial sweetener-free medicines available in hospitals and a subsidy for these in pharmacies. We want to encourage manufacturers to remove questionable and potentially harmful ingredients from their products and give the consumer more information and choice, while we wait for our regulatory authorities to do something about the appallingly neglected area of children's medicine," concluded Ms White.


    The six artificial colours used in the South Hampton study, resulting in a request for a voluntary ban in Britain, were the yellows, tartrazine (102), quinoline (104), sunset yellow (110), and the reds, carmoisine (122), ponceau (124), and allura (129).

    In New Zealand, as at October 2007, 124 medicines, including 81 designed for children, contain the artificial sweetener aspartame. The 81 are:

    • Anti-inflammatory Lozenges - Menthol and Eucalyptus Flavour Lozenge Amcal
    • Anti-inflammatory Lozenges - Raspberry Flavour Lozenge Amcal
    • Augmentin Duo 200 Powder for oral suspension
    • Augmentin Duo 400 Powder for oral suspension
    • Augmentin ES Powder for oral suspension 600mg/42.9mg per 5mL
    • Augmentin Forte Powder for oral suspension 250
    • Augmentin Powder for oral suspension 125
    • Berocca Performance Effervescent tablet
    • Berocca Performance Effervescent tablet Original Flavour and Tropical Flavour
    • Cellcept Powder for oral suspension 200mg/mL
    • Children's Panadol 7+ Years Soluble tablet 250mg
    • Chlorvescent Effervescent tablet
    • Claramax Reditabs Tablet 5mg
    • Curam Powder for oral suspension 125mg, 31.25mg/5mL and 250mg, 62.5mg/5mL
    • E-Mycin Granules for oral suspension 200mg/5mL and 400mg/5mL
    • Gastrolyte Powder Sachets Powder for oral solution fruit flavour and natural flavour
    • Gastrolyte Pre-Mix Oral solution
    • Gastrolyte-R Powder
    • Gaviscon Chewable tablet 80mg/250mg/133.5mg – lemon flavour and peppermint flavour
    • Gaviscon Cool Chewable tablet Cool Peppermint
    • Gaviscon Double Strength Chewable tablet 160mg/500mg/267mg – lemon flavour and peppermint flavour
    • Glycoprep-C Powder 6%w/w
    • Imodium Melts Orodispersible tablet 2mg
    • Konsyl Orange (Sugar Free) powder Powder for oral solution 60.3%
    • Lemsip Cold & Flu Hot Drink Powder for oral solution 500mg Lemon & Menthol flavour
    • Lemsip Cold & Flu Hot Drink Powder for oral solution Lemon flavour
    • Lemsip Max Cold & Flu + Chesty Cough Powder for oral solution
    • Lemsip Max Cold & Flu Direct Blackcurrant Oral granules and Lemon Oral granules
    • Lemsip Max Cold & Flu Hot Drink Powder for oral suspension 1,000mg Lemon flavour and blackcurrant flavour
    • Lemsip Max Cold & Flu with Decongestant Hot Drink Powder for oral solution Lemon flavour and Blackcurrant flavour
    • Lemsip Max Flu Lemon Powder for oral solution
    • Metamucil Lemon Lime Smooth Powder for oral solution 3.4g/dose
    • Metamucil Orange Flavour Smooth Texture Powder for oral solution 3.4g/dose (sachet)
    • Metamucil Orange Smooth Powder for oral solution 3.4g/dose (Jar)
    • Moxlin Sugar Free Powder for oral suspension 125mg/5mL and 250mg/5mL
    • Mucilax Powder for oral suspension 3g/dose (Orange flavour)
    • Nucolox Powder for oral suspension
    • Nurofen For Children Meltlets Orodispersible tablet 100mg Strawberry Flavour
    • Nurofen Meltlets Orodispersible tablet 200mg – lemon flavour and mint flavour
    • Orelox Granules for oral suspension 40mg/5mL
    • Ospamox Powder for oral suspension 100mg/mL, 125mg/5mL, 250mg/5mL
    • Panadol Cold & Flu Citrus Effervescent tablet 500mg
    • Panadol Rapid Soluble tablet 500mg
    • Paracotene Effervescent tablet 500mg/8mg
    • Phenergan Elixir 5mg/5mL
    • PicoPrep Powder for oral solution 0.64mg/g
    • Redoxon Double Action Chewable tablet
    • Redoxon Double Action Effervescent tablet 1000mg/10mg
    • Singulair Chewable tablet 4mg and 5mg
    • Synermox Syrup 125 Powder for oral suspension
    • Synermox Syrup 250 Powder for oral suspension
    • Throat Lozenges - Menthol and Eucalyptus Flavour Lozenge Guardian
    • Throat Lozenges - Raspberry Flavour Lozenge Guardian
    • Vicks Vital Lemon Throat Lozenge and Orange Throat Lozenge
    • Videx Chewable/dispersible tablet 25mg, 50mg, 100mg and 150 mg
    • Videx Chewable/dispersible tablet 25mg, 50mg, 100mg, 150mg and 200mg (mandarin orange)
    • Vitaplus B Plus Effervescent tablet
    • Voltfast Powder for oral solution 50mg
    • Zyvox Granules for oral suspension 20mg/mL

    Safe Food Campaign Inc
    PO Box 9206
    Wellington 6141
    Ph (04) 476 8607, (021) 1699120

© Safefood Campaign