An unprecedented number of additive-free food and drinks are hitting shop shelves, market research shows.

One in every four products launched this year claims to be free of additives and preservatives. This compares with just 8 per cent of new food and drinks in 2004, according to figures from Mintel's global new products database.

So far this year, nearly 1,000 items claiming to be additive-free have gone on sale, compared with just 800 items during the whole of 2006, monitoring showed.

Mintel's spokesman, David Jago, said: "Manufacturers are tapping into the nation's growing desire for a more natural lifestyle, as consumers take a greater interest in what really goes into their food."

Last year, the phrase "additive-and preservative-free" overtook "low-fat" to become the most frequently used health claim on food and drink products. That trend looks set to continue this year, Mintel predicted.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) changed its advice to parents this month after Southampton University researchers found potential links between a group of seven E numbers and hyperactivity in children.

Youngsters showing signs of hyperactivity should avoid the seven additives, the watchdog agency said.

The FSA's board will discuss the issue at its meeting in London today.