Children under four should not be sold slushies, food regulator warns

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Children under the age of four should not be sold slushies, the food regulator has warned, as children can become ill from consuming too much glycerol.

Retailers should also not offer "free refill" promotions to under-10s, new guidance from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests.

The voluntary guidance comes after the regulator's risk assessment found children may suffer from headaches and sickness caused by exposure to glycerol.

Glycerol is a substitute in sugar often used in slush ice drinks to prevent the liquid from freezing solid, create a "slush" effect.

Two children in Scotland, one in 2021 and one in 2022, were hospitalised because of "glycerol intoxication".

When high levels of glycerol is consumed - such as if a child drinks several slush products in a short space of time - glycerol intoxication could cause shock, low blood sugar and loss of consciousness, the FSA said.

As the effects of glycerol are linked to body weight, those over the age of four are unlikely to suffer ill-effects from drinking one slush ice drink.

FSA Head of Additives, Adam Hardgrave, said: "While the symptoms of glycerol intoxication are usually mild, it is important that parents are aware of the risks - particularly at high levels of consumption. "It is likely that there is under-reporting of glycerol intoxication, as parents may attribute nausea and headaches to other factors. "We are grateful to those manufacturers who have already taken steps to reduce levels of glycerol, and to those who have already told us they will be adopting our new guidelines."

Glycerol is found in some other foods, but at much lower quantities when compared to slush ice drinks.

The FSA's new guidance asks businesses to add the minimum amount of glycerol to achieve the "slush" effect.

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