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Do you avoid artificial colours in your kids' food?

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#1 EBKatie

Posted 24 February 2012 - 08:28 AM

While the scientific jury is still out on conclusive proof, many parents will tell you that they are certain that particular colours and additives to food send their children crazy! Red cordial is a commonly-cited culprit, but it’s more complicated than that.

    In my professional experience the top two additives that my patients have issues with are number 102 - tartrazine, which is a bright yellow colour and number 62 – MSG which is a flavour enhancer,” says Mum and nutritionist Kate di Prima. “Common symptoms can be hyperactivity and a lack of attention span, exacerbation of ADHD, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, dizziness – the list goes on.”

    Greater parental awareness of potential issues with artificial colourings resulted in ALDI banishing artificial colourings from its entire range of food last year and Coles has now followed suit, announcing this week that 100% of their own Coles Brand of food and drink products are now free from artificial colours, as well as from added Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).  

  “We have listened to our customers’ concerns that they would prefer us not to use additives in our products and following five years of extensive product development, we are now able to ensure 100% of Coles Brand food and drink products are free of artificial colour and added MSG,” says Jackie Healing, quality manager for Coles. “Our customers are clearly concerned by food additives and the effect they believe they have on their health. A significant number have indicated that they or their children have experienced reactions to artificial colours and MSG.”

  The numbers were significant indeed, with Coles research finding that 91% of Australians are worried about consuming products with artificial colours and added MSG and one in three parents believe that their children have had a reaction to artificial colours. But is this simply perception or is it a fact?

  Most research concludes that the average child should not have an adverse reaction to artificial colourings given the amount that is routinely consumed, although artificial colourings could worsen the symptoms of children with attention deficit disorders.  An analytical survey undertaken by Food Standards Australia New Zealand echoed this approach, stating that there is “no public health and safety risk from the consumption of foods containing added colours as part of a balanced diet.” You can read the full report here. http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/_srcfiles/...%2008%20_2_.pdf

    Nevertheless many parents would beg to differ, with Kate di Prima finding an increased number of clients with additive-related symptoms. “Fifty years ago we had a very basic diet – probably a plain cereal for breakfast, a simple sandwich for lunch and meat with three vegies for dinner,” she says. “There wasn’t the prevalence of variety that we have now. There are so many more flavoured biscuits, snacks like three-minute noodles, fruit-flavoured straps and wraps and jello’s. Our exposure to artificial colours is becoming far more prevalent. That’s why I have been pushing the need for healthy lunchboxes in the past few years. Grain sandwiches, low-fat dairy foods and fruit. We need to move away from the packaged foods.

    Going package-free is easier said than done though, which is why Ms di Prima is so enthusiastic by the recent supermarket initiatives. “I really applaud companies who are taking that step forward to ban artificial colours,” she says. “It really does help to make parents’ job that much easier.”

    For parents who are concerned, Food Standards Australia New Zealand publishes a list of all food additives, which you can download here. (http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/_srcfiles/...s%20numeric.pdf) and another useful list to print and take with you to the supermarket is one that outlines the additives to avoid, which is published by the Food Intolerance Network. You can access it here. (http://fedup.com.au/...ditive page.pdf)

    Parents: Have you or your children experienced any reaction to artificial colourings? Do you avoid them?

#2 FeralZombieMum

Posted 24 February 2012 - 09:33 AM

Yes, all 4 of my kids react to certain food chemicals - and their reactions are all different. I wasn't even aware that there were things that were issues, until I first put my children on an Elimination diet (aka FAILSAFE ) and I was shocked at how calm they all became.

Some of the nasty chemicals they put in food have caused my children to have stutters, tics and aggressive behaviour.

It's not only the artificial stuff that can affect children - there's also natural chemicals that have adverse effects. Take 'natural' yellow Annatto (160b) that is now in so many foods - this can still cause a lot of issues for children.
Annatto orange-yellow colour is a vegetable dye made from the seed coat of the tropical Annatto tree (Bixa orellana). In Australia it is commonly used in cereals, snack foods, dairy foods including yoghurts, icecreams and cheeses, snack foods and a wide range of other foods

Headaches, irritability and others

The Food Intolerance Network has received many complaints about this additive, including headaches in adults and children, headbanging in young children, and irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in children and adults as well as the full range listed above plus arthritis. Reactions to annatto can occur the same day but are more likely to be delayed than reactions to artificial colours, and are therefore more difficult to identify.


It's been fantastic that Aldi have taken action in regards to their products, and it's wonderful to hear Coles is starting to follow their lead.

Australia still has such a long way to go - especially when it involves medication. I dread it when my children become sick and require antibiotics - there is no option but the flavoured and coloured AB's. These send all my kids psycho in their behaviour - as if it's hard enough dealing with a sick child, and having very little sleep myself, I then have to put up with my child reacting to their medicine.  cry1.gif

#3 Guest_Retro_Mumma_*

Posted 24 February 2012 - 09:39 AM

Like the plague.

DS has a very basic diet. We all do in our family, we prefer it.

I find its cheaper and healthier to not use packaged foods all the time and just make things from scratch or eat basic things for a snack like fruit, cheese or crackers.

#4 ComradeBob

Posted 24 February 2012 - 09:45 AM

I have no idea whether DD reacts to artificial colours or not, as we tend to eat fairly unprocessed food anyway.

I'm a big believer in the sayings "If your great granny wouldn't recognise it as food, don't eat it"

"Avoid food products that contain ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce" and

"Avoid ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry"

#5 singlemummyof2

Posted 16 April 2012 - 10:44 PM

I am also one to avoid additives. I agree with Zombiemum, I started my quest through Sue Dengate. It has changed my life so much for the better I even started a website to help raise awareness. http://additivefreeshopping.blogspot.com.au/
I add bits to it often, when i find some new info or article or a hidden treasure. I have found the Woolworths Select brand quite good for additive free shopping (thats because it's my local) but I agree that Coles also has a wide variety. I eliminated not only artificial colours but flavours and preservatives too. My son reacts terribly to preservative 211 found in soft drinks eg Sprite. He carries on like he's possessed!

#6 Ally'smum

Posted 03 November 2012 - 06:42 PM

I have never given my daughter anything with colouring and additives, but that has been relatively easy because she is only 18 months old. We don't eat anything with additives in our house so there shouldn't be problems there, but I think it will get more difficult when we have more playdates and birthday parties as she gets older. If only everyone we knew thought like us!

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