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Is it goodbye to additives?

Byline: Dr Miriam Stoppard

Over the years I've entered the controversial argument about food additives, particularly food colouring and children's behaviour, as each flurry of news attempted to associate the two.

ch ne There may be an association in the minds of parents and activist groups, but I've yet to see robust science that links the two as cause and effect.

of to ca st pbcI Ever since I read an excellent scientific study done on school children and their parents, which showed no association between food additives, food colouring and children's behaviour (especially ADHD), I've been sceptical.

a In this study, children were admitted to a children's ward and over a two-week period, on a random basis, some children were given a diet containing food colourings and additives and others were given additive-free food.

w Only the doctors knew what the children were eating at any given time. Parents then had to judge, according to how their children were behaving, whether they were eating foods with additives or not.

Even when the code was broken and parents were shown they had judged their children's behaviour wrongly, they still refused to believe all the evidence.

Despite this proof, these parents continued to exclude foods with additives and artificial colouring from their children when they got home. There are many other possible culprits in foods like salicylates and monosodium glutamate (MSG), which occur naturally. You'll find salicylates in tomato products, mushrooms, olives, honey, cucumber, oranges, apricots, bananas, cheese, peppermint and chewing gum.

MSG occurs in many of the same foods.

I've studied sensitivity to aspirin and people who are sensitive to it are likely to be sensitive to food additives like artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.

But this is a true allergy involving the immune system and makes you very ill indeed. Changing patterns of behaviour in a child is not due to an allergy but even so, many parents will be relieved to hear that there's a move afoot to remove all artificial additives in commercially produced foods.

The lead has been taken by Nestle Confectionary, which recently announced it has removed artificial colours, flavours and preservatives from its entire range, changing the recipes of 79 products to make them additive-free. Having worked in the pharmaceutical industry, I know it's a huge task to change 80+ ingredients. But let's hope it starts a chain reaction.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 27, 2012
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