I have been getting a lot of messages asking about low additive / preservative free eating as I have mentioned a few times that we strive to follow this kind of ‘diet’. I wrote this article for a university assignment, and all the information is research I have collected over the last few years. {The sources, if you want to do some of your own reading, are listed at the end} so I thought perhaps I’d share it with you.

We started really paying attention to what we fed our children even before Noah was born – we looked into it for behavioural issues with my stepchildren and found cutting out a lot of nasties made a difference.
So naturally when Noah was born we continued with it, but I found he was even more sensitive when we’d ‘slip up’. If I let him have an apple juice he would literally go a little crazy – he reacts strongly to the colour and preservative in most store-bought apple juices and of course a host of other products too. His reactions would be anywhere from extreme moodiness to hyperactivity {way over and above ‘normal’ kid grumpiness}.
Chloe’s reactions show in her skin, her eczema flares up when she has been exposed to too many nasties in food or body products.

As time has gone on {I have been scrutinising what we eat for 6+ years now} it does get so much easier. I have become less reliant on reading labels at the supermarket because we rely less and less on processed and packaged food and make most of our foods from scratch. I am still eliminating things and replacing with safer alternatives, organic products or home made alternatives {like making our own ice cream {it’s hard to find a vanilla ice cream that doesn’t have something nasty in it!} chocolate syrup concentrate, taco seasoning, and our own milo as well, all of which I can share with you soon}. I bake for school lunches and snacks from scratch at home. Never use bought sauce packets or mixes. I don’t buy kids custards, muesli bars, flavoured chips or milks etc. I will occasionally make coloured waffles or biscuits here at home, and I am ok with them eating this because I made them from scratch and as their diet is so low in additives, I’m ok with them eating a green waffle at Christmas.

I hope you find this article to be of some use. I have been wary of posting stuff like this before as I remember what it felt like when I was first told that perhaps what I was feeding my stepchildren was affecting their behaviour. I would always pride myself on the home cooked meals I was feeding them and I guess I felt a bit offended at first that someone would suggest what I was feeding them wasn’t that great. I am SO GLAD this was pointed out to me though. It is such an eye opening topic, and I am glad that our children eat a much healthier diet because of it.

I also understand how daunting it is! It is absolutely overwhelming. The numbers and the names – there are so many of them. {my general rule now is that if there are too many chemical sounding names or too many numbers on a packet – it does not go in my trolley!} Hubby has been a little hard to ‘convert’ but he is totally on board when it comes to the kids, just not really himself.

So start with learning how to read the ingredient panel and about the ingredients that are listed in our foods. Then have a look at the foods you have in your pantry and fridge – chances are if you find something absolutely laden with bad stuff – there is a safer alternative you can buy at the supermarket OR it may be quite easy to make this yourself :o} It’s a learning curve! But it’s totally worth it. I promise.

I am no expert, and I also know that there is still so many things I could improve food wise for my kiddos to provide them with even healthier food. I am also not saying that cutting out additives and chemicals is the answer to all behavioural issues or asthma / skin problems. But my experience here with my children is that it can help. And never the less, I feel good about feeding them a range of healthy, chemical free foods as I just know that is better for their/our bodies regardless of whether it helps behaviour etc.

This is just an intro to additives in food. If the article seems a little ‘strong’ – remember I wrote it for an assignment, {just copied and pasted} and it is supposed to be a convincing argument :o}

Food Standards Australia says we need food additives to ensure our food is safe and meets the needs of consumers. However, some of these additives are a cause for concern. In today’s society, more than 350 food additives are permitted for use in Australia (2008, Choice.com.au) Out of those, about 50 of them are known to be harmful and even carcinogenic and many are banned in other countries (2009, Fedup.com.au). Some additives in our food have been linked to cancerhyperactivity and behavioural issues in children as well as asthma and other health issues. Additives include but are not limited to: colours, flavour enhancers, preservatives, antioxidants and artificial sweeteners.
Below is a short video from Fed Up with Food Additives author and food advocate Sue Dengate.
Looking at the photo above courtesy of Choice Australia, it is easy to see that additives are in so many different kinds of foods available to Australian consumers today. Biscuits, cereals, flavoured milk, yoghurts, breads, potato chips, meats and drinks are just a few examples of products on our supermarket shelves that more often than not contain a number of additives.
Additives are found in almost all food products. While there are over 350 additives permitted in processed foods in Australia, not every single one of them is harmful. Below is a list of some of the most common or most harmful additives used in Australia and their associated risks. They are listed with their number and their name.


“Southampton Six” {Colours 102, 104, 110, 122, 124, 129}
 in Europe, products with these six colours are required to display the following message: “Warning, may have an adverse effect on activity and attention of children”. They are all linked to hyperactivity, skin rashes or allergies, asthma, eczema. Some are suspected carcinogens and some are linked to kidney tumours and chromosomal damage. In Europe and the UK, products containing any of the “Southampton Six” must be labelled with the following warning
133 brilliant blue – Suspected carcinogen, linked to hyperactivity. Asthmatics should avoid this additive.
150 (150a,b,c,d) – Linked to gastro intestinal problems and hypersensitivity.
160b annatto – often labeled as “Natural colour 160b” – Linked to hypersensitivity, allergic reactions, skin irritations, behaviour and learning problems.
Watch out for these in: Soft drinks, cordials, lollies, cakes, ice creams and other highly processed foods. Though “Natural colour 160b annatto is common in many dairy and juice products.
210-216 – Benzoates – linked to hyperactivity, nettle rash, behavioural problems. Asthmatics should avoid these additives. 220-228 Sulphites – Asthmatics should avoid these additives. Linked to gastric irritation/damage, hyperactivity, behavioural problems, nettle rash and swelling. 220 Sulphur dioxide in particular is a possible mutagen and can be fatal in asthmatics.
249-252 Nitrates and Nitrites – Linked to behavioual problems, asthma and breathing difficulties, headaches, dizziness, hyperactivity, kidney inflammation and are possible carcinogens. All are prohibited in foods for infants and young children.
Watch out for these in: processed meats, wine, breads and dried fruits.

310-312 Propyl, Octyl and Dodecyl gallate– Linked to gastric and skin irritations. Asthmatics and aspirin sensitive people and pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid these additives. Prohibited in foods for infants and young children.
319-321 tBHQ, BHA and BHT – Linked to cancer and birth defects, skin irritation and dermatitis. Can cause nausea, vomiting, delirium and collapse. 320 BHA and 321 BHT are prohibited in foods for infants and young children. 319 tBHQ is fatal in a dose of just 5g.
Watch out for these in: instant and highly processed foods, salad dressings, margarine and spreads

Flavour enhancers:
620-635 – This whole range of flavour enhancers includes the famous 621 or Monosodium Glutamate or  MSG, but there are many others included here that should be avoided as there are links to asthma, hyperactivity, depression or mood swings, headaches, abdominal discomfort, restlessness and nausea, convulsions. 627 and 631 are prohibited in foods for infants and young children.

Watch out for these in: sauces, potato chips, flavoured noodles, packet soups and other savoury foods.
Artificial Sweeteners:

951 – Aspartame {Nutrasweet, Equal}– Linked to many health problems including cancer, asthma, nausea, depression, hyperactiviy and seizures.
954 Saccharin – This is a known carcinogen especially linked to bladder and reproductive cancers.
955 Sucralose – Linked to neurological and immunological disorders.
Watch out for these in: diet softdrinks and other ‘low sugar’ or ‘sugar free’ food products.
There are many more harmful additives that should be avoided. Above are just some of the most common. FedUp.com.au run by Sue Dengate has a printable PDF document outlining in full the additives that should be avoided, especially in foods for children or asthmatics. Unfortunately, it will become evident that these harmful additives are in many of the foods we feed our children. Some of our most iconic Australian foods contain harmful additives. Vegemite contains preservative 220 in the colouring used {160c} but in an amount that no longer requires labelling under Australian Food label laws and the ‘chocolate’ coating on Tim Tams contains 4 colours considered to be carcinogens or cause hyperactivity in children and are banned or restricted in other countries {Colours 110, 129, 133 and 150} (2009, Fedup.com.au).
As previously mentioned, not all additives are harmful. This is why it is important to know your numbers (and names!). Simply looking at the ingredient list and counting the additives you see is not enough information to make an informed choice. Some brands may have a few more additives in their product but they may be considered safe or harmless while another brand may only have one additive but it is on the list of those to avoid.
Wouldn’t it be great if companies made it easy for us to know what we were buying and feeding our children by being upfront and honest on their food labels?
If Food Products were Honestly Labeled
Unfortunately, reading food labels can be a bit of an effort – it’s a minefield out there with so many products, so many names and so many numbers. It’s important to know both the name and number of the additives you wish to avoid, as companies can use one or the other (and sometimes both) on their food labels.
It can be quite daunting at first, but there are changes that we can make. Be more aware of the ingredients in the products you are buying. Oftentimes a switch of brands can lessen the number of harmful additives in your family’s diet. Print out the Additives to Avoid list and bring it with you when you shop. Start slowly and give yourself time to phase out the products you have at home that contain harmful additives and gradually replace them with safer alternatives. Knowledge is power and we can make a difference if we just face the music and become informed and choose better products for our children.
Read more about additive and their associated risks in these excellent Australian sources that also have books available.
Fed Up with Food Additives – Sue Dengate
Additive Alert – Julie Eady
Feeding our children a low additive diet or a diet free of harmful additives is not impossible. Oftentimes it’s just about choosing one brand over another or making something at home from scratch instead. Even cutting out just a few additives here and there could have a profound impact on the health, wellbeing or behaviour of your child.
Adams, M. (2006). Honest Food Labels (comic) [Image]. Retrieved 01 April, 2012 from http://www.naturalnews.com/020148.html
Dengate, S. (2011). All Additives Factsheet. Retrieved 20 March, 2012 from http://www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info/information/additivesall.htm
Fed Up (nd) Food Intolerance Network. Retrieved 20 March, 2012 from http://fedup.com.au/
Fed Up With Food Additives (2011). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved 27 March, 2012 from http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:t3g00vOFyAQJ:www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info/information/questions3.htm+vegemite+additive+risk&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au
Food Standards Australia (2012). Food Additives. Retrieved March 30, 2012 from http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/additives/
Fox, M. (2007). Food additives linked to hyperactivity in kids. Retrieved 24 March, 2012 from http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2007/09/06/2025678.htm
Fusara, D. (2011). Beware of the “Southhampton Six”. Retrieved 27 March, 2012 from http://ddwilliamson.com/beware-of-the-southhampton-six/
 Mercola, J. (2012). Is this FDA-approved sweetener causing brain damage? Retrieved 27 March, 2012 from http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Safety/chemical/sweetener_0324120739.html
Monica (2011). Making the best food choices for your kids. Retrieved March 7, 2012 from http://www.wholekids.com.au/feed/newsfeed/72 .
When was the chocolate chip cookie invented? (n.d.) [Image]. Retrieved 23 March, 2012 from http://answers.yourdictionary.com/answers/food-cooking/when-chocolate-chip-cookie-invented.html
(2010). The artificial food colouring and hyperactivity link. Retrieved 30 March, 2012 from http://www.kidspot.com.au/familyhealth/family-health-healthy-living-the-artificial-food-colouring-and-hyperactivity-link+3545+190+article.htm
{TAGS: #additives, #children, #diet, #risk, #food, #hyperactivity, #behaviour, #preservatives, #sweeteners, #colours}