Glycerol (E422) is a key ingredient used in the production of slush ice drinks, having the function of maintaining the slush properties, to prevent the liquid freezing solid.
Although glycerol is generally of low toxicity, there are concerns about the effect on young children when large quantities are consumed over a short period of time.
FSS is aware of two children, in Edinburgh and Lanarkshire, who became unwell after consuming excessive slush ice drinks.
Both children required hospitalisation and presented with symptoms consistent with glycerol intoxication. We are working with UK Trade Associations that represent the soft drinks industry and a wide variety of stakeholders to better understand the levels of glycerol used across the sector.
How we make sure food additives are safe
Additives must be assessed for safety before they can be used in food. We also ensure that:
- the science on additives is strictly reviewed
- the law is strictly enforced
- action is taken where problems are found
We investigate any information that casts reasonable doubt on the safety of an additive.
A food additive is only approved if; it has been tested and proved to be safe for its intended use; there is a justifiable technological need to use it; and its use does not mislead the consumer.
All the foods we eat consist of chemicals in one form or another. Many food additives are chemicals which exist in nature such as antioxidants ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or citric acid, found in citrus fruits.
Due to technological advancements, many other additives are now man-made to perform certain technological functions. Whether or not the chemicals used in additives exist in nature, they are subject to the same safety evaluations.
Some consumers think of food additives (E numbers) as a modern invention used to make cheap foods. In reality, food additives have a long history of consumption and are used in many traditional foods. For example, wines including Champagne contain sulphites, and bacon contains the preservatives nitrates and nitrites to prevent the growth of botulism.