HC Deb 09 November 1967 vol 753 cc1365-401

9.37 p.m.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Artificial Sweeteners in Food Regulations 1967 (S.I., 1967, No. 1119), dated 24th July 1967, a copy of which was laid before this House on 31st July, in the last Session of Parliament be annulled. This subject of artificial sweeteners—sweeteners which go under the name of cyclamates—has been before the House for many years. It is probably desirable to say at the outset that these artificial sweeteners are derived from benzine, but are thirty times as sweet as sugar. There appears to have been considerable pressure on the Ministry for a long period to allow these sweeteners to be used in foodstuffs generally. At present, they are permitted only in defined proportions in soft drinks.

If the Regulations come into force as proposed, on 1st December, then cyclamates will be permitted in all foodstuffs with the exception of ice cream. One may wonder why ice cream has been excluded. A technical reason is given for this, but one may suspect that it could be because large quantities of ice cream tend to be consumed at certain periods by children and that there may be some concern about the amount of cyclamates consumed in that way.

Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)

Would the hon. Lady help the House by pointing out exactly where in the Regulations ice cream is shown to be excluded? I have seen the Sugar Bureau's submission—to the effect that it is excluded—but I cannot identify the exclusion in the Regulations.

Mrs. Butler

I am assured that it is there. I do not want to take up time in digging it out at this stage, because a number of other hon. Members want to speak and no doubt my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture will cover the point in his reply if necessary.

In the United States, cyclomates have been permitted for dietary foods, but in January this year the Food and Drugs Administration announced that it was making a special investigation of scientific reports that cyclomates might be a possible cause of birth defects and embryo deaths.

This evidence was based on both Japanese and American studies. It is interesting to note that, in Russia and Eastern Europe, cyclomates are banned altogether and the reason for this is particularly important. Although cyclomatcs have been under consideration for many years, they were always considered to be physiologically inert and it is only recently, in the last year, that they have been found to convert in certain people to produce cyclohexylamine, which is recognised to be a highly toxic substance and which, even more significantly, is related to di-cyclohexylamine, which has carcinogenic properties.

This new evidence about the nature of cyclamates has pulled many experts up short and has made them feel that we should examine the whole subject more closely. In the United States, this is being done and even in this country the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee, which advises the Minister—although in its second Report on the subject it advised him to go ahead with permitting cyclamates in all foodstuffs—has stated: If the Pharmacology Sub-Committee had been in possession of this information"— this is the information to which I have referred— at the time of their original consideration of cyclamates they would have requested the carrying out of further work necessary to resolve these problems raised by the finding of cyclohexylamine as a metabolite of cyclamates in man. That is significant. The very Committee that the Minister is relying on for advice has raised this point. Moreover, in suggesting that it is safe to go ahead with cyclamates in food in this country, the Committee has recommended, and the Minister has accepted the recommendation, that cyclohexalymine be examined from the toxicological point of view within the next three years as a matter of urgency and that within the next five years, further metabolic studies of cyclamates should be carried out.

It seems extraordinary, therefore, that, at this point, when experts in many countries and of many types are worried about the possible effects of cyclamates, when our own Advisory Committee recognises that there is cause for concern, we are giving the all clear to these substances. One would think that, in such circumstances, the Minister would wait for the results of studies which are being carried out to make sure that there is complete safety in using these substances in foodstuffs, especially when there are other worrying features of cyclamates.

Evidence has been produced in animal studies of possible stunting of growth and also of some effects on organs of the body—the liver, the kidneys and the intestines, in particular. These studies may or may not be significant for human beings, but there is a doubt and one which needs much more careful examination.

Although the subject has been under consideration in this country for 11 years —and I am sure my hon. Friend will stress this point—we just do not know enough about the effects on human health when cyclamates are widely used. It has been suggested by experts that if cyclamates are permitted in food generally a reasonable amount for an individual to consume every day is about three grammes.

The evidence that we have from the United States is that, with children particularly, many persons have been found to consume about 12 grammes a day. It is impossible to predict how much any one person, particularly children, will absorb of these substances once they are permitted in food. Many children eat vast quantities of sweets, and others, sweet foods. Some of them may be having very large intakes and no one can possibly say in advance that they will only be having limited quantities.

The Ministry is being unrealistic in thinking that cyclamates will not be extensively used in foodstuffs once permission is given. The production of cyclamates is reasonably inexpensive. I am quite sure that manufacturers will go in for it in a big way. I have here a brochure of a firm, illustrated with bottles and jars on the shelves of a grocer's shop. It is suggested that all of these bottles and jars can contain cyclamates. It is an enormous array covering all kinds of things, including various meat and savoury products, in which one normally would not think of sweetness being used.

We have to remember that these substances are not like drugs which may only be used spasmodically in cases of illness and usually are. These will be used, once they are permitted, all day and every day, throughout the lifetime of the individual. It is very difficult to understand why we have these regulations now in view of these points which I have been making, in view of the fact that a number of medical and scientific journals have urged the need for caution, in view of the fact that the Consumer Council, which represents a very large body of consumer opinion, has also said that we should be cautious and wait for further research, and since the European Economic Commission has held up its approval for a further year while studies are being carried out.

In France, cyclamates have been banned for the present until more is known about them. It is difficult to understand what is the reason for permission being given. I am completely baffled to find the reason. Looking back on some of the mistakes that we have already made—I do not use this in any emotive way—at least when thalidomide was used it was being used to try to help women who were suffering from emotional and nervous disturbances, and there was some reason for using it, however misguided it was in the light of subsequent knowledge.

When we used persistent pesticides which had effects on birds and other wild life, at least we were using them, if misguidedly, to try to increase food supplies. But there seems to be no reason that one can find for permitting the use of cyclamates. I wonder who it is who is pushing their use. I am quite sure that it is not my hon. Friend and I do not believe that it is his advisers who are guilty. I think that possibly what it really comes down to is that it is not any one individual who is guilty of trying to push something on us which is suspect and has possible harmful overtones, but that the guilt really lies with our methods in matters of this kind, in dealing with any chemical and scientific development.

We are completely outdated in our approach to these matters. We tend to say that all these substances are harmless and innocent until we have proved them guilty. This is what we are saying about cyclamates and we have no right to do so. These substances are potentially so important that we ought to be very certain that they are suspect for use until we have proved them to be absolutely innocent.

We should pay very much more attention to this matter. We are dealing with highly dangerous and potential influences on our life in an out-of-date, old-fashioned and completely unscientific way. Studies of this kind should be linked with the Dunlop Committee, or with some other medical body, and we should take the matter much more seriously.

There is the third point that cyclamates are not suitable for use in their present form in many manufactured foods. To make them suitable for use in jams and other such products, they will have to have artificial additives added to them, thus making our food even more artificial than it is. We are faced with this kind of situation from a Ministry which, more than any other, is responsible for the health of the nation. It is more responsible even than the Ministry of Health because positive health derives from the land and its products. The Minister is the guardian of our health and he should listen very intently to what my hon. Friends and other hon. Members and people outside the House say on this subject, and should pause before making the Regulations.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will defer the Regulations for several years until the studies for which he is asking are completed and we are reassured about the matter. If he will not defer them for several years, I hope that he will at least hold them up for a time, possibly until after the new food labelling regulations come into operation, so that we can see exactly how substances of this kind will be marked on the labels of manufactured foods. If they are to appear as permitted artificial sweeteners, the public will have no means of knowing whether the permitted artificial sweeteners are cyclamates.

I recognise that only diabetics can have a need for cyclamates. I am sure that this is a point which we all have in mind. But it can be dealt with by producing these foods as dietetic foods and marking them as such. They could be given under medical supervision and it could be made clear to the public that they are not for general consumption.

I ask my right hon. Friend to think again if he possibly can, because I am sure that we are making a big mistake in allowing these Regulations to go forward before the further studies are completed.

Mr. Speaker

If all hon. Members who seek to catch my eye are to speak, speeches will have to be brief.

9.54 p.m.

Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland)

I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for inviting me to comment on the Regulations. I find it extremely strange to be supporting what the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) has said. In the past, as I am sure will be the case in future, I have heartily opposed many of the things for which she stands. Tonight, I hope that I shall support what she has said just as heartily, because she has pointed out extremely well all the dangers which lie within the Regulations.

I find it extremely hard to oppose the considered conclusion of the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee. It is not for us who are laymen to argue with such a distinguished Committee, because the main Food Additives and Contaminants Committee contained among its eleven members seven doctors of philosophy and I hardly feel inclined to argue with the gist of their findings.

The important figure, however, from which we cannot escape and which appears time and again, both in the considerations of the Food Additives Committee and in other documents, is the figure, which never seems to have been disputed, that it is unwise for a human being to exceed a daily intake of 50 mg. of cyclamates per kilogram of body-weight. We really can argue with the Minister if we begin by accepting that that figure is what is involved. It was agreed by the Pharmacological Committee and the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee reinforced this finding.

I was staggered by the reply given on 23rd October by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who is to reply to this debate, when I put down two Questions asking him about this matter and whether, bearing in mind the safe dose of 50 mg. per kilogram of bodyweight, he would make it obligatory to state specifically that sodium cyclamate is contained in any particular wrapped, packaged, canned or bottled foodstuffs or soft drinks and to make certain that the packages state how much of those substances are contained.

I was shattered that the Minister completely refused to allow the packaging of the foodstuffs simply to state how much of the substances they contain. This is a strange way of dealing with the public. It is particularly strange that the Minister should be prepared to exempt certain foodstuffs from even the very superficial packaging obligations which are imposed on most foodstuffs and he is prepared to exempt, as he stated in his reply to me, chocolate, sugar and flour confectionery and, as we have heard from the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green, ice cream from even the superficial obligation of stating that by generic term that artificial sweeteners are contained in foodstuffs. That the hon. Gentleman is prepared to exempt those other foodstuffs altogether is astonishing when there appears to be a generally agreed maximum dose which it is safe to consume in a day.

I was glad to receive in the post this morning a document from the Consumer Council, whom all of us, including, I am sure, the Minister, respect. It begins as follows: Cyclamates should not be allowed to be used in food without limitations … the presence of cyclamates should be indicated by name and not under the general heading of permitted sweetener'. The circular goes on to say: We cannot think why the Government has rushed ahead with permitting cyclamates in virtually all foodstuffs when other countries are hanging back because of research work still being carried out. It is astonishing that the Government have rushed ahead with the Regulations. It is particularly astonishing on the matter of labelling. I cannot understand why they cannot treat the public like adults, why they cannot expect the public to understand that a maximum safe dose is 50 mg. per kilogram of bodyweight and why they do not require the labels of all foodstuffs containing cyclamates to state how much is contained in them.

The Minister is a reasonable man and I hope that he will recognise the reasoning of this argument. I plead with him to take these Regulations away and to tell us the Government will have another look at them, and that he will be prepared, in particular, to tighten up the labelling Regulations. I am sure that when he has thought of the force of the arguments which have already been put to him and the arguments which, I know, are to be put to him by other hon. Members he will agree to take the Regulations back.

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Terence Boston (Faversham)

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) about the need for the utmost care in the use of foodstuffs and to ensure adequate protection against unsafe products, but I also feel by the same token that we in this House have a duty not to cause undue alarm where there is insufficient ground for this.

I think that one of the things she said in her speech, which was made in a very moderate way and a persuasive way, was that cyclamates are by no means new. They have been in extensive use in various parts of the world. There has been extensive research carried out into their use and their effects. A great many tests have been carried out. Just to give one example of their use, in the United States, for instance, they are used in 16 per cent. of the soft drinks which are consumed in the United States—a very sizable amount indeed.

Of course, their discovery was many years ago; it was back in 1944 when this new sweetening agent was first discovered. Extensive tests have been carried out from the time when the group was discovered until 1951, and I think there is some significance in a report in 1951 by the United States Food and Drug Administration, which I think that we in this country can regard as their equivalent now to our Dunlop Committee, a highly qualified and authoritative body. After evaluating researches into this material by the manufacturers that body decided that it was a safe food additive and allowed its use in food and beverages.

Taking a further look at researches which have been done from 1951 until the 'sixties, there has been a rapid growth in the United States, in particular, of products containing cyclamates. Extensive tests have been carried out from 1951 onwards, and there has been no evidence of harmful effects upon the people. I want to say a word or two more about that in a moment.

I think it worth while quoting from a statement the United States Food and Drug Administration made in May, 1965, when it said: A review of recent studies on artificial sweeteners shows that they are safe as presently used". It went on: The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council in 1955 recommended that artificial sweeteners be used in special purpose foods for those who must restrict their intake of sugar and total food energy. It cited, however, evidence that cyclamates may produce a mild laxative effect"— it is significant that this is the only effect on humans which has been noted— at intakes of five grammes or more per day and suggested the need for additional studies of the safety of cyclamates when used at the higher levels. In 1962 the Food and Nutrition Board republished its recommendations in a similar fashion. Within the past year F.D.A. has received new experimental data on the safety of cyclamates, including animal studies, tests involving ingestion by children and other data. F.D.A's Bureau of Medicine and Division of Toxicological Evaluation have reviewed these studies and concluded that there is no evidence that cyclamates at present use levels are a hazard to health. I would like to add to this a word or two about British experience. It was in 1953 that the Artificial Sweeteners in Food Regulations prohibited the use of foods containing artificial sweeteners except in the case of saccharin. Very extensive studies on the safety of cyclamates have been carried out, and these have eventually convinced the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health. It said in 1965, for example, that it was safe to use them in soft drinks. Further evidence was supplied to the Committee after that, and it reported twice, its last Report being published in June, 1967, confirming the earlier conclusion that cyclamates were safe.

Before coming to a couple of quotations from the Reports, I want to say a word or two about the extent of the researches. The safety of cyclamates has been investigated extensively in both animals and man over the last 20 years. The work has included a variety of tests on toxicity in mice, rats, dogs, monkeys, pigs and calves. An assessment has also been made into safety in man, and it has been done in males, females and children, including an assessment in healthy people of different ages and sexes and persons afflicted by particular diseases, which have included diabetes, intestinal disease, kidney disease, and, something which has been mentioned in this connection, skin disease.

These investigations have confirmed the safety of cyclamates, and that finding has been reconfirmed in the Committee's second Report. The researches which have been carried out exceed by a very long way those carried out on any other food additive in use, and that is worth bearing in mind.

I want now to make one or two quotations from the Committee's two Reports. The first one was published in 1966. In it, the Committee says, referring to the Pharmacology Sub-Committee: We accept their conclusions and note particularly their remarks on the impressive extent of the information available to support the safety-in-use of cyclamates. Among its recommendations, the Committee says: We consider that since cyclamates do not appear to produce any toxic effects, since the amounts likely to be ingested will not be of an order likely to produce a significant laxative effect and since they will be to a great extent self-limiting, there would be no risk to health in allowing the use of cyclamates in food without statutory limitation, except for that already laid down in the Soft Drinks Regulations, 1964. My other quotation is from the Committee's second Report, which was published in June of this year. The Committee says: We reaffirm the recommendations in our first report and we endorse the recommendations in the second report of the Pharmacology Sub-Committee. In its summary of Conclusions and Recommendations, the Report goes on: There would be no risk to health in allowing the use of cyclamates without statutory limitation except for that already laid down in the Soft Drinks Regulations, 1964.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

In the light of what the hon. Gentleman has just quoted from the Report of June, 1967, despite the Committee having said that, can he explain why it goes on to say that further examination over the next three years is a matter of urgency to investigate possible toxicological dangers?

Mr. Boston

I think that the salient point here, as borne out by detailed evidence about the tests which have been carried out on animals and humans, is the very positive statement in the Report that the Committee has not been able to find evidence to support any suggestion that they are harmful to humans. That is the important point to bear firmly in mind.

During the past two years scientific reports have appeared purporting to show cyclamate toxicity. A claim was made in one that a marked decrease in the rate of growth of rats occurred, but it is important to bear in mind that these findings were based on a grossly abnormally high intake of cyclamates, and the results had been previously reported in 1958.

Another scientific observation was a finding in urine of a derivative, to which my hon. Friend has already referred, cyclohexylamine. This substance has been investigated, and in amounts known to be formed in the body has been shown to be innocuous.

It is right to be cautious and that the most intensive and exhaustive tests should be carried out, but I am bound to say that the whole weight of the evidence that has been produced so far supports the use of this sweetener.

10.1 p.m.

Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)

I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston), because, with one important reservation, I am on his side, and I rise to give importantly qualified support to the Minister.

I was very surprised that the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler), who moved the Prayer, should have been unable to answer the question which I put to her. It is asserted with great confidence in the Sugar Bureau's brief, which I have in my hand, and I see that I am not alone in that, that ice cream is excluded from the Regulations. With the best will in the world, having a bad habit of looking at the sources and having looked at the Regulations and read every word, I could not see that this was so. Therefore, I ask the Minister to enlighten the House, because we should know, how it is that we are told so confidently that ice cream is excluded when the passage which governs the possible exclusion of any substance, the interpretation clause, Clause 2(1), says, "…'food' means food intended for sale for human consumption and includes drink, chewing gum and other products of a like nature and use, and articles and substances used as ingredients in the preparation of food or drink or of such products, but does not include—

  1. (a) water, live animals or birds,
  2. (b) fodder or feeding stuffs for animals, birds or fish, or
  3. (c) articles or substances used only as drugs.…"
There is no word about ice cream, so will the Minister explain how it is that ice cream, if it is excluded, is excluded?

Mrs. Joyce Butler

The hon. Gentleman has made reference to me. He interrupted me in the middle of my speech, when it is difficult suddenly to shuffle one's notes; but ice cream is already covered by a separate Statute.

Mr. Iremonger

I am obliged to the hon. Lady for this answer. I am glad to have the authority of the hon. Lady, but a more precise and specific explanation from the Minister would be more acceptable to the House.

I turn now to the qualification and the reservation that I have in supporting the Minister. I could not quite follow the hon. Member for Faversham. I read the Sugar Bureau brief and I thought it was a very powerful and damaging document. I also read the brief that I think he had read, because I recognised certain passages in what he was saying. It only reached by hands recently, being dated within the last 24 hours. I was not very impressed with it, because it did not seem to be sufficiently detailed.

The Sugar Bureau brief, as the hon. Lady made clear, has given precise details of the exact place, time and nature of the research that is carried out, and these contradictory arguments I would not care to advance in the House. They are too vague. I do not know what research it was, and when it was done, and I discard those as being not satisfactory in answer to the Sugar Bureau brief, and therefore I say to the Minister that unless he can demolish the point made by the hon. Lady, and by my hon. Friend, about the danger of cancer, which appears to have been established since the first Report, and which was taken seriously, and not dismissed by the second Report of the Committee, I shall have serious reservations about supporting him.

I would like to devote my main argument to the objections to sugar, which I think is really the strength of the Regulations, that they provide an alternative to sugar, and I would like to say why I am glad to see them. It seemed to me that in the submissions which were made to us by the British Sugar Bureau detected a trace of economic Luddism. I could not fail to observe that on page 5, paragraph 8, under the heading "conclusions" it said that the unrestricted use of this new chemical sweetener would cause damage to numerous Commonwealth territories depending for their livelihood on a guaranteed price for their sugar in the United Kingdom. Although it may be true that in the short term the home grown sugar industry is pro- tected by the Sugar Act 1956 from any shrink-age in the market, this may not obtain indefinitely; any change would involve a political decision. That may be true, but it is not a valid argument against these Regulations on their merits. The merit of these Regulations is that they help to promote a harmless substitute for a dangerous substance, namely, sugar, and I want briefly to show how dangerous sugar is. Incidentally, the United Kingdom has the highest individual consumption per head of any civilised country, and therefore it is urgently necessary that we should not only recognise the danger in the consumption of sugar, but should take active steps to reduce its consumption. It is a danger in that it is as likely as any substance to be conducive to coronary heart disease.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

Would my hon. Friend like to produce the evidence on which he bases that assumption?

Mr. Iremonger

That is what I am going on to do. It can be observed that the increase in the incidence of coronary heart disease over the past 50 years runs pari passu with the increase in the incidence of sugar. My hon. Friend may dismiss that if he likes, but that is only the first point.

There is no question now but that biologists recognise that the consumption of sugar greatly increases obesity, and I say this with great diffidence in the presence of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley). I am sure that he will support me in saying that he and his medical colleagues admit that the great danger of sugar is that it increases very rapidly the blood sugar and energy providing content of the body, which therefore means that proteins subsequently absorbed are diverted into forming fat because the energy requirement is available already. Therefore the more sugar that is eaten the less protein is consumed, and the more fat is put on the body. That is the submission which is made to me, and I am subject to correction, but if that is so, sugar is a prime factor in promoting obesity, and obesity itself is generally regarded as a contributory factor in coronary disease.

My third point against sugar is supported by the authority of the 1958–59 Report of the Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Education, "The Health of the School Child", which says in the third paragraph on page 42: That the greater consumption of sweets…is a major, if not the major immediate factor in this rise of tooth decay in children, is now widely accepted by dental surgeons. In introducing the Regulations the Minister is making a useful advance towards a reduction in the consumption of sugar which, broadly speaking, is conducive to good as opposed to bad health. I therefore very much hope that he will be able to give us the reassurances that we need on the question of cancer. If he can, I shall be able to support him and regard these Regulations as representing an advance towards improved good food habits which will contribute towards the nation's health.

10.20 p.m.

Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)

I support the arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler). Over the last year or so there has been a horrible growth in the use of artificial foods and artificial agents, and the House should require a great deal of convincing before it sanctions the use of another. It is indisputable that there are reasonable doubts among medical scientists as to the effects on human being of cyclamates, and one of the major objections to the Regulations is that they make no requirement that cyclamates should be identified specifically in products which contain them. I suggest that we are entitled to know what we are eating.

Secondly, even if we do know, there will be considerable difficulty in working out precisely the amount of dosage we should allow ourselves to take every day without ill effects. Not all of us on this side of the House are desiccated calculating machines, and we may find it difficult to work out precisely how much of this agent we have taken in a day.

Thirdly, there are considerable doubts as to exactly how safe this agent is. I refer to a leading article in the Lancet for 15th January, 1966, which, on page 135, says: Cyclamates do not seem to have been fully tested for carcinogenicity in accordance with British requirements. Some hon. Members may recall the words of Charles Kingsley, in Chapter 2 of "Westward Ho!", when he said: It is sweet in the mouth, but bitter in the belly. That may apply with great force to this agent.

The Lancet went on to say: Furthermore, it has long been a fundamental precept of British food additive legislation that the applications of any given additive should be limited to those for which a real need can be demonstrated to exist, and that the maximum level of use should be stated, in keeping with the responsibility laid upon the Minister by the Food and Drug Act (1955)' to restrict so far as practicable the use of substances of no nutritional value as foods or as ingredients of foods.' My fourth point is that there may be considerable damage to Commonwealth sugar-producing countries if we go ahead with these Regulations. There is a plentiful supply of cane sugar, and I should like to hear the observations of my hon. Friend on that point.

I submit that there are substantial objections to the speedy approval of these Regulations, and that my hon. Friend has to show the House why it is not possible to wait a little longer so that various tests can be made and the public can be reassured that these agents will not do them harm.

I want to refer to the point made by the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston), who appeared to be saying that these agents had been used for a considerable time and that no harm had resulted. This was taken up in the leading article of the Lancet, to which I have referred. It suggested that there should be further study of the matter to which I think that my hon. Friend was referring —the Wisconsin study—and said that only after this study …can the long record of safe use of cyclamates be balanced against the possible new hazards that may arise from excessive consumption in the diet. There are substantial objections which my hon. Friend must answer before he can command our support for the Regulations.

Mr. Boston

Before my hon. Friend sits down—

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Gentleman has sat down.

10.26 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Scott (Paddington, South)

At the risk of being called a Luddite by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger), I must confess that, given the choice of a natural or an artificial food, I would choose to eat the former. The law of the land supports me, because the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, lays on the Minister a responsibility to restrict, so far as is practicable, the use of substances of no nutritional value as foods or ingredients of foods.

Other committees which have considered additives have come down on the same side. For instance, the Committee on the Soft Drinks Industry said in 1959: We can see no good reasons from the consumers' point of view why the practice of substituting a non-nutritious substance for use in soft drinks should continue. In our view the consumer has a right to expect soft drinks to be sweetened with sugar. There is real force in the argument that, without positive reasons to the contrary, the consumer has a right to depend on the Government to safeguard his interests here. Even if all other things are equal, a consumer has that right, but it has been shown tonight that other things are not equal and that there are real doubts about the health hazard in cyclamates.

I will give just three pieces of evidence that there is at least a major question mark over the health factor. First, the E.E.C. announced in January this year, that it proposed to allow the unrestricted use of cyclamates, but changed that decision three months later and decided to charge a scientific committee with an investigation of them and postponed at least for a year a decision on whether they were to be allowed unrestrictedly. Only on Thursday, 2nd November, in a Written Answer, the Commission stated that research is being presently undertaken and that it wished to await the results before reaching any definitive opinion. Therefore, there is no chance of the European Economic Commission allowing the unrestricted use of cyclamates until it has a definite scientific answer about whether they involve any hazard to health.

The second piece of evidence comes from the United States. The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston) quoted at length from the reports of the Food and Drugs Administration. This year, that Administration started an investigation of the safety or otherwise of cyclamates and has had evidence from the United States and Japan that there is at least a possibility of cyclamates being responsible for birth defects and abnormalities in the foetus and has decided to set up a full-scale inquiry into cyclamates and the whole range of artificial sweeteners, to see whether there is any truth in these rumours.

Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)

Where did my hon. Friend obtain the evidence that this inquiry is being instituted?

Mr. Scott

It was announced by the Food and Drugs Administration on 13th January this year. Thus, be have both the United States and the European Economic Community carrying out investigations at the moment into the safety of these substances, yet Her Majesty's Government alone have decided to rush forward helter-skelter and allow them to be used in unrestricted fashion, without waiting for the outcome of the research in the United States and on the Continent.

I do not understand the reason for the hurry. Our cause for worry is whether or not cyclamates, having been consumed, are metabolised in the body. The original evidence and the claims of the manufacturers were that, having been consumed, cyclamates were excreted unchanged. It has been proved now that this is not true. Cyclohexylamine is formed in the body and excreted, and possibly dicyclohexylamine, an acknowledged carcinogen, may be formed in the body, also. We must have positive evidence about the nature and dangers of cyclohexylamine, and, further, we must have certain knowledge as to whether dicyclohexylamine is formed, before we can agree to the passing of these Regulations.

It has been proved and accepted that cyclohexylamine itself is formed in the body, and the committee which has been referred to, the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee, said: All the evidence at present available indicates that the toxicity of cyclohexylamine is low". I fail to see how, with the weight of evidence which has come from other sources, that view can be sustained.

One can go back to the first research into this substance which the Monsanto Company did in 1937, reporting that Cyclohexylamine is quite caustic and will produce a dermatitis if left on the skin for any length of time. In 1955, there was further reported research to the effect that cyclohexylamine is toxic when administered to experimental animals in various ways; it produces excitation and irritation of the mucous membranes; it is a spasmogenic poison; it has a marked local effect when applied to the skin; it has pronounced cumulative properties and it is capable of producing chronic poisoning.

All this adds up to a substantial weight of evidence that the toxicity is far from low but it quite substantial. Yet, opposed to that, we have the bald statement of the Committee that the evidence indicates that toxicity is low. Quite the contrary is the fact.

If the Committee was satisfied that toxicity was low, why did it go ahead immediately afterwards and recommend that the substance be examined from a toxicological point of view within the next three years as a matter of urgency, and that, within five years, further metabolic studies on cyclamates should be carried out? Either there is a health hazard or there is not. If there is a hazard, why the need for great urgency? If there is no health hazard, there is no need for further research.

The only conclusion one can draw from the evidence so far is that we need further research, and there should certainly be delay in bringing the Regulations into effect. The Minister must answer these points on the toxicity of cyclohexylamine in detail and make a positive case for passage of the Regulations tonight.

The other matter which worries me is that even the Committee itself, accepting that cyclamates should be used, recommend that a maximum allowable level should be adhered to. We have no suggestion from the Government as to how this is to be enforced. An example I have is that of a boy 8 years old who has only to eat a helping of jelly at lunch, four slices of bread and jam at breakfast and supper, and have a glass of squash with supper, to exceed considerably the allowance of cyclamate which the Committee mentioned. Therefore, I believe that the Government have a very real case to answer.

On this subject, as on so many others, Dr. Johnson has something to say: Some people have a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly very studiously, and very carefully; for I look upon it that he who does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else.

10.35 p.m.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)

Like the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott), I hope that I shall not be thought to be prejudiced in this matter. There is on the Statute Book a provision which enjoins Ministers to take great care before they recommend adding things to food—care that they should watch the matter over a period of years, in effect, although it does not say that.

Section 4(2) of the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, says that …. Ministers shall have regard to the desirability of restricting, so far as practicable, the use of substances of no nutritional value as foods or as ingredients of foods. It is, therefore, only fair to start with a suspicion of anything which has no food value, and which can be added to food if the Regulations are not annulled.

Have Ministers had that …regard to the desirability of restricting, so far as practicable,… the use of such substances? What have been their considerations in the matter? The Minister has heard the almost unanimous view of the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee that there is no hurry about introducing permission for cyclamates to be added to foods generally. He has heard the almost unanimous view that there is a fear in people's minds about them until they are proved to be safe. In effect, he says merely that they have not proved to be unsafe.

Is that sufficient? Will he not listen to the opinions which have been expressed in the Committee and withdraw the Regulations now, before it is too late? He must give a very good explanation of the Committee's second Report and its caveats. He must explain why it wants further urgent research if it was so sure that the cyclamates were safe. Is it not obvious from the addition of those remarks to the Report that they were not proved to be safe? And if they were not proved to be safe, is it not certain that he should not be asking us to accept the Regulations now?

There is no doubt that there will be damage to the sugar producers if the Order is not rejected. I do not think that their opposition is merely a case of Luddism. To make an allusion adequately suited to a Church Estates Commissioner, this is not just a question of Great is Diana of the Ephesians. It is not just a question of people running around trying to save their own livelihood. A real fear has been expressed, and it's the fact that it is expressed by people who may be damaged does not detract from the value of its expression.

In the absence of proof that cyclamates are safe we should be looking at the position not only of the colonial producers of sugar, but of sugar producers at home. It may be said that the effect on them is not likely to be great because there are provisions against losses from a falling off in the consumption of home-produced sugar. All the same, these are not things to be ashamed of.

I hope that the Minister will listen to the views expressed tonight with great care and will heed them, because they have been widespread in the House, as I believe that they are among the people outside who have studied these matters.

Will the right hon. Gentleman at least make a genuflection in the direction of the Consumer Council, which has laid down two reasonable provisos? This would at least mean that, when these Regulations come into force, there would be some security for persons who are not obliged to consume dietary foods. The Council's request for foods containing cyclamates to be properly indicated by name is eminently reasonable.

In any event, what is the hurry? Why cannot this matter be postponed yet further? It looks—I am sure that this is not the case—as though my right hon. Friend has been stampeded into this by the manufacturers. My right hon. Friend may look surprised at that statement, but people who do not know him as well as we do may too easily come to the conclusion that he and his right hon. Friend are being stampeded into this by persons who will gain materially if these Regulations are allowed to go forward.

Apparently cyclamates have at least ten times the sweetening value of sugar; and, naturally, it will be cheaper to use them than sugar in many made-up manufactured articles. One can understand people thinking that my right hon. Friend has been stampeded into this—a case of Luddism in reverse—although I am sure that that is not the case. But let him not allow that to appear to be so. Instead, he should listen to the view of the House and withdraw the Regulations, at least until research has proved that cyclamates are positively safe.

10.42 p.m.

Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)

Hon. Members are grateful to the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) for giving us an opportunity to discuss a matter of great importance and immense interest. For many years I have been professionally interested in the whole question of food additives. However, I will not go into the elaborate technicalities or draw on the many helpful briefs with which most hon. Members have been supplied. Instead, I shall merely draw from some of my personal recollections and observations.

To save the time of the House, and in the interests of the debate, I shall content myself with enunciating some important general principles relating to this whole subject, in the hope of getting the Minister's comments on them, for it is much more his attitude towards these principles that will influence me in my attitude towards the Regulations than the elaborate and rather contradictory details which we have been studying.

We must accept straight away the existence of food additives. In this modern world of immense populations, with many people living at even below starvation level, to do away with food additives altogether would virtually mean the death of millions of people. These additives are needed for specific purposes, including prolonging the storage life of food and replacing nutrients that have been removed by mechanical methods of food preparation. But there are two kinds of food additives; the intentional additives and a group of unintentional additives, properly referred to as contaminants. This latter group is growing at an alarming rate and, because of this growth, we must look more carefully at the growth of the intentional additives over which we have control.

It is important for us to get down to a minimum the total amount of additives in our food. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) said it was important that we should know what we are eating. The Mad Hatter said, "I see what I eat". Nowadays, with chlorine in bread, sulphur dioxide in sausages, toluol in fats and polyphosphates in ham, and so on, it would be a wise man who even knew what he was eating. We must, therefore, keep these additives to a minimum.

What are the basic principles on which we should act? Surely we should only permit additives which are in the interests of the consumer. If additives will increase nutrient properties or make food more palatable or restore colour where it has been removed by processing, then they are acceptable in the modern world. But to use additives in order to deceive, in order to conceal the use of inferior materials, is a totally different matter and we have to decide into which category cyclamates come.

The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) invited me to deliver a dissertation on carbohydrate metabolism and the aetiology of coronary thrombosis. I cannot do that now, but I take the point. But there are people who have an excessive intake of sugar. It is a melancholy fact that we suffer in health from our very affluence. As rationing came in in various countries during the war, health improved in terms of vascular conditions, first, because of the reduction in the consumption of sugar and, secondly, and perhaps more important, because of the reduction in the consumption of animal fats, which are probably more important in relation to coronary thrombosis than sugar.

But the hon. Member is right. Many people, from nature or disposition, size, profile or activities, have to take care of their total calorie intake and their intake of sugar. Here we have an alternative which, so far as we can tell—and I say this advisedly—is safe for human consumption in certain specified doses. It might not be safe in great doses but it gives people the opportunity to cut down sugar intake.

It would be wrong at this stage to deprive people of the possibility of using this substitute. At the same time, it would be wrong to encourage the use of this substitute extensively. People who feel that they are taking sugar—and we all have to have a certain calorie intake, otherwise we cannot survive—are entitled to get it in terms of sugar. It is, therefore, essential to see that its use is controlled and kept to what I would call its proper use.

The hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) said that we must wait until this substance is proved safe and referred to the fact that, although the Advisory Committee said, "Yes" to the use of cyclamates, it added that safety must be urgently investigated. But we are investigating the safety of hundreds of things which we are all consuming every day. If we were to stop consuming everything which is being investigated, none of us would be consuming anything at all.

Mr. John Hall

But all these investigations are being carried out because doubts on these things have arisen since they were allowed to be used.

Dr. Winstanley

That is true and it is right that there should be these investigations. But let us remember that these are not risks which can be proved or disproved in the laboratory but only over an extensive period. For example, there are serious worries about the use of pesticides and whether the absorption by humans of substances from them will have certain effects. But we shall not know for many years. That is why a lot of these studies have to go on and on, and they will have to continue because new risks may appear.

There are dangers in all sorts of foods. To hear people say, "You must not eat fat, which gives you coronary thrombosis; sugar makes you fat," and so on about almost every food, one would think that the only way to remain healthy would be to starve to death. It is a mistake to get too paranoid on this subject.

The hon. Lady is right to have given us an opportunity to discuss the matter but it would be wrong to deny the use of a rather helpful and useful substance, which seems to be safe, to certain people who find it advantageous, particularly those referred to by the hon. Member for Ilford, North. But, at the same time, it would be wrong to allow the indiscriminate use of a substance which is not a food in place of one which is a food merely in order to assist producers. The rôle of additives is to assist those who consume food, not those who wish to use inferior materials in the production of food.

Mr. John Hall

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, would he not agree that we ought to know, by proper labelling, exactly what we are eating? To follow his own quotations of the Mad Hatter who said "I see what I eat", is he aware that he also said, "I do not always eat what I see."?

Dr. Winstanley

I entirely agree.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

The point which weighs with me in this discussion is the impact of this on the sugar producers of countries for whom sugar is an extremely important commodity, and often their main source of livelihood. This has been described as opposing the march of progress and of course, one cannot make an absolute bar on synthetic materials of all kinds, food or anything else. This is a natural part of present-day life.

In common with other countries, we are engaged on important and far-reaching negotiations on the effect on the standard of living of people in other countries of limitations in trade of basic commodities, and particularly in natural products. Sugar is a very important commodity. There is the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, and there have been a series of attempts to achieve a wider international sugar agreement to safeguard the people whose livelihood depends upon it.

There will be a major conference next year in which the issue of the sale of commodities and the related question of the use of synthetics will bulk very large. We cannot dismiss this question as inconvenient or unscientific simply because it does not matter to us economically whether we consume sugar or cyclamates.

Has any estimate been made of the tonnage of sugar that will be displaced, or might be displaced, in the manufacture of food if there is a total absence of restriction on the use of these synthetics? If it will seriously upset this country's importation of a very important raw material then it is something which should count in the argument and should weigh in the balance in deciding whether we take this action.

This is not to set oneself against the use of synthetic materials as a general principle. One could not do this today; it would be against all commonsense. It is an argument which would weigh heavily with me and, I think, with other hon. Members. If there were no other kind of objection to this substance it might be difficult to prove that point. Various hon. Members have pointed out with force that there are other objections. I am also impressed by that fact that the Consumer Council, which I always regarded as an independent body, with no special axe to grind, seems to have strong and cogent criticisms about the use of this substance as a sweetener. Can the Minister tell us, clearly and precisely, why it is necessary to allow the general use of this substance, and more particularly, why at this moment?

10.54 p.m.

Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)

The House should not allow these Regulations to go forward without very serious consideration of some of the points raised. The hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) has done a very great service in bringing this matter before the House. It is quite clear that not nearly enough is known about the substance known as cyclohexylamine, the substance produced by certain human beings—we do not know in what proportion—as a result of taking cyclamates.

There has been quite a lot of research from the Japanese, the French and also from the Huntingdon Research Laboratories on this subject. It is known to be a toxic substance, but what is not known is the proportion of human beings who produce this substance when they take cyclamates. That is the matter which concerned the Pharmacology Sub-Committee, when it said that there should be more urgent research. In my view, this matter has been dealt with deeply enough tonight, and that is why great caution should be observed when considering the whole question of cyclamates.

The Regulations state that cyclamates should not contain more than 100 parts per million by weight of cyclohexylamine. We do not know in what proportion human beings produce this substance. I hope that the Minister will address himself to this point, because it is important to know the nature of the substance cyclohexylamine. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give an answer about this, because the House will not feel satisfied concerning the safety aspects when so little is known about the toxic nature of this substance. It is toxic in nature, but we do not at present know nearly enough to be able to say that cyclamates can be taken safely.

10.57 p.m.

Mr. Michael Barnes (Brentford and Chiswick)

I find it difficult to understand the argument that we do not know enough about cyclamates, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler). Another hon. Member asked what was the hurry. A great deal of research has been done in this country for the last ten years or so. Companies involved and the Ministry have been engaged in exhaustive work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston) referred to tests on animals and humans, men, women and children, healthy and diseased. In the United States cyclamates have been used since 1951, and there are no known reported case of ill-effects in humans.

Mr. Neave

Will the hon. Member deal with the point which I have just made about the substance cyclohexylamine? That is what we do not know enough about.

Mr. Barnes

I was coming to that. Many hon. Members have referred to the fact that cyclohexylamine can be left in the system when the cyclamates are metabolised. This is mentioned in the British Sugar Bureau's report, and there is mention of the fact—a scare, in a way —that this substance can react in such a way as to form a cancer-producing agent. The Pharmacology Sub-Committee, however, had all this evidence before considering the matter and was confident that in the sort of amounts that the substance can be found in the body, it was innocuous. I am told that the Russians have fed huge doses of cyclohexylamine to rats and have found no evidence of cancer resulting.

References have been made to the tests which are being done in the United States on monkeys and other animals. Those, I think, were the tests to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green referred. Certainly, they were the tests to which the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Scott) referred. The British Sugar Bureau's report quotes them in saying that the American Food and Drug Administration had begun investigations and that further tests with monkeys were under way. It stated that in the United Kingdom there had been more complacency on this issue. It has nothing to do with complacency, however, because—and on this the hon. Member for Paddington, South, was misleading—in March, 1967, Food Processing and Marketing reported a Food and Drug Administration spokesman as saying that: Further studies on rats and monkeys to determine whether or not artificial sweeteners will affect the outcome of the animal pregnancies have been going on for some time. These investigations are described as normal continuing studies. Thus far they have produced no results. F.D.A. has no intention now of seeking to restrict the use of artificial sweeteners. As recently as 2nd April this year, F.D.A Commissioner James L. Goddard, M.D., told the House Inter-State Committee that there is no evidence that artificial sweeteners as used in foods today are unsafe or present any risk.

Mr. Scott

In the United States there is no unrestricted use of cyclamates in food. They are restricted to some foods and soft drinks, and not unrestricted. It is a very different problem when there is unrestricted use.

Mr. Barnes

Yes, but they use more sugar-free products of one kind and another than we in this country do, and what is the difference between taking cyclamates in soft drinks and in food? I do not believe there is any difference at all.

There is also in the British Sugar Bureau's report a reference to children in the United States and a calculation that intake by children of food and beverages containing cyclamates can account for a consumption of no less than 12 grammes of cyclamates per day! There is an exclamation mark. If that is the case, if since 1951 there have been no cases reported of ill effects in humans, surely it proves the argument I am trying to put and which some other hon. Members have tried to put, including my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green, talked about pressure, and she asked who was doing the pushing. Various people have suggested in this debate that pressure has been exercised. I think it would be a good idea just to ask what is the connection between the British Sugar Bureau and Tate and Lyle, for example, because it looks very much as if Mr. Cube is now trying on inadequate pharmacological grounds to ban his competitors. If this is being done, and if words like "cancer" and "thalidomide" are being bandied about it is very serious indeed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) spoke about the sugar-producing countries of the world. The maximum percentage in the U.K. sugar consumption by the use of cyclamates is said in the British Sugar Bureau's circular to be 4, which is a very small percentage; 4 per cent. is the maximum, it says, which could be at risk as the result of cyclamates.

I would agree with the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) that in our society probably too much sugar is taken into the body, and that is bad not only for teeth but in other ways as well. I would have thought that additives like these in food, particularly for those who have to watch their sugar intake, would have been entirely proper, and that these Regulations should be made at the present time.

11.3 p.m.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

Time is drawing on and I shall take only a couple of minutes. I have listened to all that has been said in the debate, and I have also read very carefully the briefs which were sent to us. The Con- sumer Council's brief is a disturbing one. I think the case is made and there should be better labelling. I do not think there is any doubt about that one.

What I am not absolutely satisfied about is the scientific evidence. We have got to be very careful in this House before we say things which are highly damaging to men of very great integrity. We have to look at the list of those who have been members of the food additives committee and be certain that what we say here is not what will damage their reputation unjustly. Having listened to people about this outside the House, and having listened to the debate tonight, and having read something about this matter, I am still not absolutely certain that there may not be some bad effects left in the body as a result of taking this form of artificial sweetener. I think that that is as strong as one can make the case.

I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Ire-monger) that in 1962 it was recommended that any ban on the use of artificial sweeteners in ice cream should not be lifted. I do not think these Regulations lift it. Therefore, that is banned. May be that is because the quantity of this sweetener might be too great if it were put into ice cream. Therefore, I am not suggesting that anything which I have said justifies lifting that ban.

I believe that the strongest case of all against these Regulations is an economic one, and that at once ceases to be a scientific decision. Instead, it becomes a political and economic argument. It appears to me that the question before the House is whether we think the passing of these Regulations will damage the British sugar industry, and, if it will, shall we mind. I do, because my constituency produces sugar, and I do not wish to see the British sugar industry damaged, whether it be in the West Indies or in the United Kingdom.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)

I am sure that we are extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) for raising this matter. The width and extent of the debate has shown the interest of the House.

I want to confine myself to discussing health aspects, and I shall not follow my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) into arguments about the economy. However, I know that the House will agree with him that we must not call into question, on slender evidence, the scientific reputations of those who have been dealing with these matters.

On the general principle, one of the difficulties facing any Government in considering additives and other artificial substances in food and fertilizers is that scientific examination, by its very nature, cannot establish the full consequences of the use of such substances. They can only emerge after a long period of use in practice.

That imposes upon the Government of the day a special duty to be cautious in the extension of the use of substances—in the present case, the extended use of cyclamates as an additive in foodstuffs. I would not go further than say that there is still uncertainty about the toxicity of the resulting products in the human body and about how difficult it is to ensure that the admittedly safe limits are not exceeded in ordinary consumption.

It is a very complex matter, but I hope that the Minister can give some assurances to the House, especially since these Regulations do not merely permit the use of cyclamates as a substitute for sugar for those whose health requires it, but a very much more general use in foodstuffs and drinks. We should be grateful to the Minister if he could be fairly categorical about labelling. We should like to see something more specific about the nature of the additive rather than a mere reference to recognised artificial sweeteners.

Most of us would not accept the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger). The fact that sugar is dangerous to some people is not an argument in favour of using another substance which has no food value when it is not necessary for the health of the person concerned.

I am sure that the House will agree that the Minister has a case to answer on the detailed arguments and, most of all, on the matter to which the hon.

Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) referred, the general duty of the Government not to accept the wider use of substances of no food value until they are proved to be necessary and safe. I hope that the Minister will address himself to that point particularly.

11.9 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Hoy)

May I say how grateful I am to my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) for raising this subject. I have answered many Questions on the problem in the past, including some from the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), and I should like to do my best to answer every point which has been made this evening.

After all, we are dealing with a foodstuff, and it is important that people should be assured that every possible precaution is taken. Some of the words which have been used in the debate tonight might have quite frightening to people, but they have no real substance in argument.

I will first deal with the point about why ice cream is not in the Regulations. Some hon. Members have suggested that it has been left out because if cyclamates were used it would prove dangerous. There is a very simple answer why it is not included: artificial sweeteners in ice cream are forbidden under the provisions of the Food Standards (Ice Cream) Regulations, 1959. This ban is part of compositional requirements and has nothing to do with the safety of cyclamates or saccharin. The Food Standards Committee recommended a ban on the addition of artificial sweeteners as an alternative to prescribing that ice cream should contain a minimum amount of sugar. This was done in 1959 and that is the reason why ice cream does not appear in the Regulations.

I think I should also get rid of one or two of the other little things which may have coloured hon. Members views tonight. It is said that the E.E.C. has decided that cyclamates have not to be used. That is not true. All that the E.E.C. countries have decided is that they will delay harmonisation. Indeed, four countries will continue to use cyclamates, as they are doing at the present time; so it is untrue to say that, and it conveys the wrong impression.

As far as we are informed, there has been no announcement that the F.D.A. in the U.S.A. is doing further work on cyclamates, except in the normal process of their work because, as the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) said, it is a continuing process. He was interpreting exactly what was meant in the report that was presented to the Government. The Food Additives and Contaminants Committee's recommendation for further work is a common recommendation for all types of additives, whether solvents, colours or preservatives. This is what is normally done, and rightly so, because the Government are entitled to be kept aware of what is happening on a continuous basis and the House is entitled to be informed of what is going on.

We were even concerned about the question of sugar, because obviously it plays a part in the economy of certain countries. We have talked it over with them. Nobody is delighted at losing orders, but no one is unduly alarmed. Nobody would expect us to make a decision and say, "There it is, we are making it, and it will have to be accepted."

Mr. Scott

Could the Minister say why the Committee, in recommending continuing research, used the phrase "as a matter of urgency"? This is not normal.

Mr. Hoy

I thought that if I sought to convey all I wanted to say in a speech, at the end of the day hon. Members would say that I had not answered certain questions, so I thought I might do it the other way round and answer questions and say what I would like to say in the process.

I think that what they meant was quite simple. "Quite simple" is not really correct when one is dealing with cyclamates where all these assertions are made, but I hope to be able to prove, beyond peradventure, that the decision we have come to is supported by many other countries and world organisations which have come to the same conclusion.

I had better say a few words about cyclohexylamine, because this has been mentioned frequently during the debate.

I assure the House, on the advice given to me by my specialists, that it is not a cancer-causing agent. Hon. Members should not use the terms which have been used tonight. It is easy to frighten people. I am not saying that the hon. Gentleman has a guilty conscience. The words "thalidomide" and "cancer" have been bandied about. These are frightening terms. What I am saying is that cyclohexylamine is not a cancer-causing agent. Dicyclohexylamine does not metabolise from cyclohexylamine. It has been looked for, but has not been found. These are the views of the people who advise my Ministry. The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) said that the people who advise us are the most distinguished people whom it is possible to find in this country. What is more, they are people with a completely independent view, and do not receive a penny in salary for the job they are doing at the request of the Government. We are extremely grateful to them. There is no "lobby" here.

Having answered the questions, perhaps I might say what the Regulations do. Their main purpose is, of course, to allow the use of cyclamates in all foods except ice-cream. The use of cyclamates in soft drinks is already controlled by the Soft Drinks Regulations, 1964. Specifications are laid down by reference for the various types of cyclamate, and also, for the first time, for the various types of saccharin. Specifications are also included for full and half strength sweetening tablets. A minimum content of saccharin and cyclamate respectively is laid down for mixed tablets. The Regulations are already in force for tablets, and will come into force for the use of artificial sweeteners in food on the first of next month.

I am surprised to hear hon. Members say that these Regulations have been introduced hastily. If there is one thing that cannot be attached to these Regulations, it is haste, because the question of permitting the use of cyclamates in food in this country was first raised in 1956, 11 years ago, and proposals for Regulations were introduced in 1963, when the Conservative Government were in office.

Since fresh evidence about the safety of cyclamates was submitted, the question of their use was referred back to the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee, not once, but twice, and its two reports have been printed. Both our predecessors and we were determined that no risk ought to be taken in the use of these cyclamates, and both reports from the Committee recommended that there was no hazard to health in permitting the use of cyclamates—conforming to satisfactory specifications—in food without limits.

It has always been the aim of the Government to obtain the best advice that we possibly can on the difficult questions of toxicology and chemistry involved in controlling the addition of substances to food. We think that in the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee, and the Pharmacology sub-Committee, we have as expert and independent a body of scientists as it is possible to obtain, and we think that it is not unreasonable to take their advice on the scientific issues involved.

Mr. John Hall


Mr. Hoy

I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I want to say all that I need to say in reply. I was glad to hear the tribute paid to these distinguished people by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). When they come firmly to a decision, after considering the matter for 11 years, one feels that one ought to pay some regard to it.

It is the duty of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to consider the reports of their expert committees in the light both of comments received by them and the advice of their own experts, and then to act in a manner that consideration suggests is best. This we have done. We have not hurried. We have taken years to do the job. The normal accusation levelled against Governments is that they take far too long to act. On this occasion our predecessors and ourselves have taken 11 years, and I have no doubt that we have taken the best advice possible in making these Regulations.

It is true that further work is being undertaken on cyclamates, but work on these and similar substances is taking place all the time, and it would be unreasonable to delay any longer where there is no evidence suggesting a risk to health. An immense amount of work has been done on cyclamates without providing any cause for alarm. As the Pharmacology sub-committee said in its First Report: We were impressed by the extent of the information that is available to support the safety-in-use of cyclamates. There has already been considerable experience of the use of cyclamates in food, particularly in the U.S.A., where tremendous quantities are used. When the hon. Member made his intervention with a little smile he knew that there is a fairly wide interpretation of dietary foods in the United States of America. The advice of our experts has been almost exactly echoed by that of the Joint Expert Committee of the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation, which consists of toxicologists of international reputation who have considered all the most up-to-date evidence. They reiterate the findings of our own people. So, if we have the F.A.O. and the W.H.O., with their famous international experts, taking the same view as our own experts, I think we are on fairly safe ground.

It is clear that cyclamates fulfil a need. The hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) said that this choice should be available. But there is even more of a choice for the normal person, because cyclamates are nothing like as sweet as saccharin—though a good deal sweeter than sugar—and they are generally regarded as lacking the bitter after-taste of saccharin and to have a more "sugary" taste. They are not complete substitutes for sugar; they can only replace its sweetening effect. They cannot replace its nutritional, culinary and preservative functions. There is not, therefore, likely to be a wholesale substitution of cyclamates for sugar.

Their use is likely to be limited and they will mainly be employed together with sugar or saccharin. Apart from soft drinks—in which their use has been permitted since June, 1965—and sweetening tablets, the main use of cyclamates is likely to be in canned fruit and vegetables, jellies, pickles and sauces, and in certain types of sweet confectionery. It is not likely, therefore, that there will be an excessive intake of cyclamates. Many people, for reasons of health, must avoid too much sugar. Diabetics must avoid it altogether. To these people, cyclamates will be of great benefit and will greatly improve the attractiveness of their food, particularly cooked food. They represent a technical advance which I am sure is in the general interest, provided that there is no health risk, and our experts are satisfied that there is no such risk. To make it quite clear, I repeat that this has not been done in a hurry but is the result or 11 years' consultation and work.

Mr. Scott

The hon. Gentleman said nothing about labelling, although he mentioned the U.S.A., where a clear label must go on products containing these substances.

Mr. Hoy

I get into trouble over labelling. The hon. Member for Westmorland has raised the subject, and the last time we crossed swords was when he wanted me to let his constituents' stuff go to America without too much on the label. Now he wants it the other way around.

There are no grounds for treating cyclamates differently from other substances under the general regulations about labelling of foods. When the revised provisions come into force nearly all pre-packed foods and many of those sold loose will have to carry a declaration of ingredients or a separate declaration of additives—although it may be a generic term such as "artificial sweeteners" or the name of the additive, like sodium cyclamate. By our measures on labelling, we hope to advance considerably on anything done previously.

Mr. John Hall

What research facilities are available to the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee?

Mr. Hoy

The hon. Gentleman must be aware of the tremendous facilities; I hope that he is not casting aspersions on these men and implying that they have formed their opinions without having done all that was necessary.

Mrs. Joyce Butler

In view of what my hon. Friend has said and the possibility of having another go at this on the food labelling Regulations, I beg to ask leave of the House to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.