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Vital: your kids' health: It's time to be a label detective.

IF you want to ensure your children are eating healthily you'll have to dig out your magnifying glass and become a label detective. There are laws governing what can and can't be added to food for babies up to a year, because their liver and kidneys can't deal with additives and salt.

But once a child reaches one year old, they could be exposed to food and drink which is rich in sugar, fat and additives.

In a new book, nutritionist Amanda Ursell warns that parents need to check food labels to make sure their kids are eating healthy and nutritious food appropriate for their age.

That means avoiding colourings, flavourings, preservatives and additives. Many countries have banned the use of azo dyes in foods aimed at children - but these are still being used here.

Azo dyes are colours that were originally made from the processing of coal tar, but are made synthetically these days. They've been linked to triggering hyperactivity and asthma in some children.

Infant food company Baby Organix (BO) carried out a survey of children's food and found, on average, five additives in each item examined. Sweets, children's desserts, cereal bars, breakfast cereals, children's drinks and frozen beefburgers contained the most.

The labels listed a whole range of E numbers, such as the azo dye called sunset yellow (E110) used in cheese snacks. The E numbers of colourings run from E100 to E180.

The word 'flavouring' covers more than 4000 substances allowed to be added to food and drink.

In the Baby Organix study, some 75 per cent of the 356 children's foods analysed contained flavourings. Flavourings don't have E numbers so there's no way of knowing exactly what's been added. But the best way to avoid them is to reduce the numbers of processed foods consumed.

Preservatives are added to ensure food remains safe while on the shelf or in the chill or freezer cabinet.

Around 25 per cent of children's food tested in the BO survey contained preservatives - with sweets, burgers and drinks aimed at children containing the most. The E numbers of preservatives run from E200 to E285.

Amanda Ursell also recommends avoiding foods that contain preservatives known to trigger side effects in some children with asthmas. These include sulphite, benzoate and nitrite.

Manufacturers also add bulking-out additives to food, such as maltodextrin, starch, modified starch and modified cornflour.

These supply extra calories but no nutrients. As young children need to pack as many nutrients as possible into the foods they eat, they should avoid foods with these added.

So turn label detective and check out what you're feeding your kids.

#L is for Labels: How to Read Between The Lines of Food Packaging by Amanda Ursell. Published by Hay House, priced pounds 8.99.

the facts

Colourings to avoid in kids' food and drink: E102 Tartrazine; E104 Quinoline Yellow; E107 Yellow 2G; E110 Sunset Yellow; E120 Cochineal; E122 Carmoisine; E123 Amaranth; E124 Ponceau 4R; E127 Erthrosine; E128 Red 2G; E129 Allura Red; E131 Patent Blue V; E132 Indigo Carmine; E133 Brilliant Blue FCF; E142 Green S; E151 Black PN; E154 Brown FK; E154 Brown HT .

Preservatives to avoid: E210 Benzoic acid; E211 Sodium benzoate; E211 Potassium benzoate; E213 Calcium benzoate; E214 Ethyl 4-hydroxybenzoate; E215 Ethyl 4-hydroxybenzoate sodium salt; E216 Propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate; E217 Propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate sodium salt; E218 Methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate; E219 Methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate sodium salt; E220 Sulphur dioxide; E221 Sodium dioxide; E222 Sodium hydrogen sulphite; E223 Sodium metabisulphite; E224 Potassium metabisulphite; E226 Calcium sulphite; E227 Calcium hydrogen sulphite; E230 Biphenyl; E231 2-Hydroxybiphenyl; E232 Sodium biphenyl-2-yl oxide; E233 2-(Thiazol-4-yl) benzimidazole; E239 Hexaminep; E249 Potassium nitrite; E250 Sodium nitrite; E251 Sodium nitrate; E252 Potassium nitrate.


FULL OF FUN: But make sure you watch what they are eating
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 12, 2004
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