I am a first time mother to a little girl who has just turned one. She was a contented baby who always slept well until 6 months (when I started her on solids). Night time wakings usually consist of severe tummy pain, wind, reflux and very irritable. After that, things got progressively worse. Once we thought it was teething and she was given nurofen (high in salicylate compounds) over a few nights. After having a UTI infection recently things went downhill and she had a major reaction to an antibiotic called Bactrim (syrup contains two benzoate preservatives). Since this episode our daughter has suffered SEVERE reflux and improved after Gaviscon. I found it hard for doctors to believe initially that it was reflux, but found a specialist (paediatric doctor) who examined my daughter and was witness to her wet burping. My specialist has prescribed Nexium and Gaviscon for 6 weeks.

Having looked for answers as to what my child might have, and no help from any GPs I decided to write a diary of food and when these behaviours started.   I have tried my daughter on gluten, dairy and wheat free diets with no success.

I truly believe my daughter has a salicylate intolerance. I only came across this after reading a book about baby sleeping habits which mentioned that is a big factor in some children's night waking. Since coming across this, I noticed straight away that foods high in Salicylate saw us having horrendous nights in pain eg. Avocado, watermelon, processed ham and turkey (nitrate preservatives), etc. I was also unsuccessful breast feeding and looking back I had an extremely high intake of tea and other high salicylate foods.  My husband and I are both Italian Mediterranean descent. I did have some intolerance when I was a child to strawberries and tomatoes and would have itchiness in the corners of my mouth and fingers and toes and was also quite an anxious child.

UPDATE:  My daughter was basically eating all of the fruits and vegetables listed in the very high category of salicylate foods. Since taking away salicylate foods I am seeing a an increase in sleep and a much more settled baby. I look forward to contacting one of the recommended dietitians for more assistance. - Danielle, Qld

My younger sister aged 8 has alopecia areata (patchy baldness) but it has turned into almost alopecia totalis (complete lack of body hair including eyebrows). She has tried going gluten free, but it’s hard. There are two coeliacs in the family. Doctors say it is nothing to do with diet and won’t do a test for coeliacs - woman at Jindera talk, Fedup Roadshow 2015.

Sue's comment: I find this extraordinary. Medical journals around the world are packed with articles about the link between alopecia and coeliacs. The point they make clear is that the gluten free diet has to be scrupulously gluten free – no mistakes – for at least several months. I know it’s hard, but that’s what you have to do. Perhaps you could print out the following articles to show your doctors.

Coeliac disease and alopecia areata in childhood, Feesatou et al, 2003. Researchers found that administration of a gluten-free diet resulted in complete hair growth.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12603809

Reappearance of alopecia areata in a coeliac patient during an unintentional challenge with gluten, Viola et al, 1999.  Describes a patient with coeliac disease whose alopecia was the only symptom. The alopecia disappeared completely after a few months of strict gluten free diet and reappeared after an unintentional prolonged introduction of gluten. After a strict gluten free diet, hair regrew. The researchers concluded “The possibility of a direct relationship in some cases, between coeliac disease and alopecia areata is confirmed”  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16498340

Factsheet on Alopecia Areata

I started on this journey after attending one of your talks five years ago. My son was having seizures and was on anti-seizure medication.  After learning about the diet, I decided to ditch the medications, which weren’t working anyway, and attempt the elimination diet with challenges.  It was the hardest thing I have done in my life. It took us 4 months to complete, because when my son had a reaction to a certain group, it was a major reaction.  From this we found salicylates were the cause of his seizures.  As soon as these were reintroduced, the seizures returned. Remove the salicylates and the seizures went.  He also had an extreme reaction to sulphites, which I would never have known anything about unless I had attended your roadshow – mother who attended Wyong talk Fedup Roadshow 2015

Our son's breathing problems and wheezing started at four months, when a GP put him on antibiotics. He was on the nebuliser at least twice a day with corticosteroids, ipratropium and salbutamol and oral steroids thrown in when he got really bad. He had all the tests for causes - dust mites etc - which proved negative. Then he started solids at 5 months and got worse.

When he was two and a half we started on the elimination diet. His asthma disappeared in the second week.

Challenges showed that Joe reacted to sulphites, benzoates, nitrates and colours, both artificial and natural. One musk stick (artificial colours azorubine and erythrosine 127) started him coughing within three minutes. Annatto natural colour 160b took a little longer. Artificial yellow colour tartrazine 102 turned out to be the worst of all. Through experience, we learned that Joe gets asthma from colours in antibiotics and toothpaste. Additives can also be absorbed through the skin, so he also gets asthma from coloured shampoo and liquid soap.  - from Fed Up with Asthma

I am a 64-year-old male. For more than 20 years I had intermittent gastric problems that were obviously caused by something but I could not figure out what it was. Eventually I narrowed it down to potassium sorbate (E202).

After eating something with potassium sorbate in it, several hours (6-9) later I would get extreme flatulence and also belching for several hours. Usually also accompanied by loose stool. It would go away several hours later, after (I believe) the sorbate passed out of my system.

It was not an incapacitating problem, but it was extremely uncomfortable. I am very happy now that I can avoid it.

The main foods that were causing me trouble were fruit-flavored drinks. I am thankful that in the past couple of years there has been a tendency to produce products without preservatives - MP

The Fedup book and approach has definitely changed my life! My daughter is almost four now and, when we manage her food, she is a wonderful angel! When we let it slide, well, we regret it but we get through it!

I remember reading about other parents who found the changes in their own health amazing—I am definitely one of those. I have struggled with IBS, have had fructose and lactose absorption tests and been advised to limit both substances. After years and years of struggling with food, through the elimination diet, I finally worked out that sulphites are the number one problem for me! When I avoid sulphites, I am perfectly fine (which can be tricky as they are sometimes unlabelled)!

I have also worked out how different additives affect my mind and my mental outlook. Antioxidants 319 and 320 definitely make me fatigued, and the day after I have ingested them, I could literally stay on the couch all day (which is highly unusual for me). These are such tricky ones because they’re often unlabelled also! Chocolate makes me feel terrible about myself for the next two days. So our lives are definitely much-improved thanks to your advice.

Through the elimination diet, I have found that my daughter is definitely highly sensitive! The things that make her crazy include vanilla, apples, bananas, sulphites, honey, MSG—the list goes on! I have been reading more about gut health lately and thinking about that too. My daughter was born four weeks early and then at three weeks old, was on IV antibiotics for 5 days, followed by another week of antibiotics every 6 hours. I think this may have something to do with her sensitivities—so we’ve been having lots of yoghurt to try and build up the good gut bacteria—haven’t worked up to giving her actual probiotics yet!

Thank you for advising me to see a dietitian. I have met with one of your recommended dietitians over this whole year and she was absolutely fantastic. I cannot speak highly enough of her. I would (and have) definitely recommended her to other people (as well as your website of course!) - Erin

I am 63 years old and just realized that I am sensitive to Salicylate in foods.  I ate two tablespoons of Organic Chia Seeds ground and put it in my smoothie.  Thirty minutes later I thought my head was going to explode with eye and ear pains and extreme ear ringing. - Gail

Sue's comment: Although chia seeds have not been tested by RPAH for salicylates, chia is a member of the mint family which is very high in sals. People who are sensitive to sals have reported reactions to chia seeds to us. Ringing in the ears is widely recognised by doctors as a typical reaction to salicylates in drugs such as aspirin, though less widely recognised as a reaction to to salicylates in foods because most people don't know about salicylates in foods. Most salicylate reactions do not occur so quickly unless a big load of salicylates has already been consumed and the food last eaten is lilterally the last straw. 

See similar stories:



See salicylates factsheet

Last night I ate Long Clawson Aged Leicestershire Red Cheese (from the UK) and by early AM had sneezing, feeling strange, and developing a horrid headache. I started to get swelling in my eyelids and my teeth & neck muscles started to ache. This is what happens when I eat food with various stuff like histamine, oxalates, nitrates, etc. I did feel slight concern when eating it because it is orange cheese but I thought it was from the Long Clawson dairy & would be all natural. It does have annatto & I've found your site. $#*& (Swear word) I haven't had reactions to food in a few weeks and this means my day (at least) will be more or less ruined.

LATER: I forgot to add that I was extremely emotionally distressed and feeling just very strange unpleasant emotional feelings. I felt that my thinking wasn't functioning normally, not just that I had a headache, but that I was in a kind of nightmare state. I know that sounds extreme but I really did. I felt terrified and that I would not feel like me again. Panic, hopelessness, etc. That night, well early the next morning I had the most horrific nightmare and I actually screamed out loud repeatedly until a family member came to see what was wrong.

In the nightmare I was laying exactly where I was in reality but there was some kind of evil being in the next room planning to do me harm and in the dream, and in a way in reality I was temporarily paralyzed. It was absolutely horrid. I have never ever had something like that in my life. It took hours for me to feel just safe, though I realized it was a nightmare rationally, physically and emotionally I still felt I couldn't shake it off for ages. All the next day I was like a zombie, felt not totally alert and very shaken from this nightmare.

I would say it took me at least 3 days to really start feeling better and have all the reactions subside.

I feel really certain it was related to the annatto. When I started getting the reaction I looked at all the things I had eaten. The cheese was something new to me, and so I read the ingredients. I threw it in the bin and good riddance - Lori, USA


I, like many others, avoid annatto like the plague. I drank some in Berri Apricot nectar a couple of years ago. The next couple of days were an emotional roller coaster with me crying hysterically and irrationally, not being able to order my thoughts, not being able to cope with my then young son and generally being so depressed and emotional.

My daughter also has inadvertently eaten annatto in a Coles brand scone. She turned psycho - trying to scratch my eyes out and screaming at me. My friend said: Man! What did you feed her??! And that's when I explained about the annatto. Thanks to your efforts to remove this nasty chemical from the many foods where it appears - Karen


I have positively identified potassium sorbate as a cause of my migraines. Products include pepperoncini that lists potassium sorbate in ingredients; dried fruit; and a liquid vitamin b12 supplement (by "Now" brand) containing potassium sorbate. The migraines caused by this preservative always include visual jagged-edged hallucinations - Alan, by email

Just a quick progress update... 12 weeks ago we started the Failsafe diet strictly together as a family and originally to sort out my 7yr old DS's behaviour. Along the way we failed a few times. At one point he had an infection and required Keflex syrup - the disgusting bubblegum flavored and brightly colored pink one. That week was the worst week we've had with him probably ever!! After 10 doses and talking him down from the roof and visiting the school a few times for dangerous classroom behaviour it finally clicked to me (I know... Duh! How silly am I) that it could be the medicine and I took it off him and things went back to 'normal' - generally well behaved, not as easily angered to melting point and not too oppositional. I'm happy to report that having gone through this process we've discovered that he can't handle preservatives, not many colors and dairy. His asthma and hayfever are virtually nonexistent where usually we'd be dosing him morning and evening with anti-histamines. I'm a happy mum with a more manageable crew at home. Even my husband's and my own hayfever, which are usually wicked at this time of year from Aug- Dec, have not been apparent and we have not taken any oral antihistamines. Only some eye drops after being in the paddock.

For those of you struggling to make a decision when to begin the diet or have just begun - I applaud and encourage you! You're doing wonderful things for yourself and your children!! Just get your food, pack your old pantry food away and get started.

My tips:

Do it together as a family - it will be accepted more readily by the kids that way.
Find a good butcher first!!
Don't expect miracles!! Look for subtle health and behaviour changes in your whole family.
Remember this is two fold - not only are you going through elimination but you're also detoxing yourselves and moving towards healing your guts that may have been under attack for some time by processed foods.

There is no better feeling than feeding your kids the best foods that you have available to you.

I've been feeling bad about the social pressure aspect and missing out on things... But the kids haven't noticed and I've found out since that others are actually inspired by what they've seen us do within our family.

To finish up we now eat preservative, color free without processed foods. My DD 5 year old now claims to like lettuce!! Am I overwhelmed with the behavioral changes it brought about in my son?? No, not really! But he's a helluva lot easier to live with now than before! He helps out more and is generally happier! Has the diet eliminated his tendency to be defiant and oppositional? No, but now I can talk to him calmly without it resulting in attempted roof jumps!!

So, all the best with the diet! We're so glad we've done it together! It's worth doing for all the small and large health and behavioral reasons!!! Go you!!! - Sarah

Went to the pediatrician today, meant to be to get a diagnosis and discuss treatment for ADHD. She was so amazed at the change in my 5 year old daughter that she did not make a diagnosis of any sort. She said she was very surprised that a change of diet could produce such results as she said that in her experience when parents try diet it rarely works. In particular she said she had never heard of dairy causing behaviour issues but since I was keeping a food diary and going through a dietician she would accept it. She had been so negative last time when I said I thought it was food related. So bit of a break through, we go back again in 3 months - Roxanne

I just want to give all you Mums & Dads a massive pat on the back. I know it can't be easy to be told so called 'good foods' are not good for your child.

I grew up as the drama queen, I cried, I hit, I slammed doors, I fought anyone for any reason. I used to accuse my Mum of poisoning me because vegies especially new potatoes tasted like poison or soap. I was a nightmare child.

Then I went to boarding school, I was a pleasure to have in class, I was calm and focused, I was polite. I never fought, I don't think I ever slammed a door. Why? Because I stopped eating what tasted bad to me. My Mum wasn't putting meat spuds & vegie on my plate telling me I wasn't leaving the table until I ate it. I didn't have to have daily fruit.

Then I'd come home for holidays, I'd slam doors again. I'd fight with everyone. The nightmare was back.

I stumbled through my youth, I slowly kind of figured out salicylates were my issue, I had mouth ulcers, tightened lips and itchy mouth from some fruits, I constantly had sores on the sides of my mouth. I just didn't understand exactly what they were in. I had a few anaphylaxis episodes and finally, luckily, came across Sue’s website.

I speed read it and then asked my brother what he thought. He read it twice then came over to me with tears in his eyes and apologised. It wasn't that I was a horrid person. Then my Mum read it, oh my goodness, the guilt and pain she felt and still feels isn't fair. But at least this child who used to scream 'I HATE YOU' who was so cruel, I made sense.

Best of all, I feel good now. I'm not a horrid little bitch. I can like myself. I feel all my family are more relaxed around me now. There's no waiting for my next major meltdown.

You are all doing something amazing for your kids. Your kids will one day thank you for it, trust me. On the days it feels tough and your kid wants something you know they shouldn't have just remember me and how much I wish we'd found all of this stuff when I was a kid. Not a 30 year old who ended up in hospital from eating cherries!

Good on you Mums & Dads, you are doing something amazing. They'll thank you one day, I promise - Vanessa.

We have been on the RPAH diet for almost 4 weeks now. Today grandma took the toddler to playgroup where he shared a plate of strawberries, grapes, rockmelon and tiny teddies. He has been crying for about 5 hours but won't tell me why. I just never imagined fruit could cause this..(have checked the usual temp, teeth etc) - Adele

My son never slept and spent all day every day in tears until I found failsafe now he goes off to sleep by himself and sleeps all night and for 2 hours during the day. He is also very content within himself, fussiness has stopped and he is open to trying new foods!! - Rose

Since going failsafe and eating very carefully within the RPAH Moderate and Low Salicylate foods I have been well whereas last year I was suffering chest infection after chest infection and in all I had 8 courses of antibiotics in one year - Charlotte

I'd like to share my wonderful news. My son is 7 years old and is in Year 1 at school. This afternoon I had his first Parent/Teacher Interview EVER where it wasn't taken up with discussions about his behaviour. Instead I got to hear how he is an intelligent boy with great leadership skills. Since following this group and tweaking his diet for certain salicylates that I didn't know about and 160b, finally his teachers are seeing the little boy that I've always known was in there. We've been to Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, etc...and it's all come down to his diet. Thank you to everyone in this group for your questions and feedback. Am one very proud Mum - Tracy

My 5 year old son has been in a lot of trouble at school. He started prep at 4.5 and just turned 5 in May. I know he is young for school but last term he was at the vice principal's office every second day. The last week of last term he actually threw a pair of scissors at another child. It us as though he can't control those outbursts. We started on the school holidays. He has been back at school for a week now this term and he has not been to the office once. I'd like to hope diet is working...I think it is! - Chantal

Great work and know how you feel re behaviour. My son is 13 with very similar behaviours and 1 week in a lot calmer and no prob at school that I know of - Carolyn

We are starting week 2 and I can't believe the difference in my boys - Felicity

Watch out for the legions of teachers and principals who will insist food makes no difference! It's been clear to me for years it makes a huge difference for my boys (not to mention hubby and I) yet the school insists he should take the same as everyone else. Very frustrating - Kylie

Can I just say that I am one of the 'legions' of principals that actually recommend this diet ALL the time. I truly believe it makes such a difference for kids’ ability to focus, to persevere without too much frustration and emotional outbursts. It is actually frustrating that parents see medication as a first option or deny that food has an impact on the child at school. I often get "nah, I have seen no difference in my child’s behaviour". Food has such an impact on kids, I am amazed that so many parents won't do it, it seems too hard or that they simply don't believe it - Jen

My miss5 was in learning support class last year. I had a meeting with the learning support teacher and before our meeting miss5 was given Cheezels and couldn't concentrate on her test. I mentioned it to the LST but she brushed the comment off - Corina
My son has been on the diet since year 1 and he is now in year 12 and is the best thing we could have done for him - Charlotte

I am a teacher who regularly suggests to parents who are thinking of going down the ADHD lane that they might like to look at food and maybe keep a food diary. They all tell me their kids don't eat junk, forgetting of course I see their children's lunchboxes! I explain to them about natural food chemicals as well as additives and preservatives. I share our experiences of being about to make psych appointments for our then 8 year old for ODD. We had been dabbling with fedup for some years and happened upon Sue Dengate's web page suggesting we removed tomatoes from our diet. We did and within days I was no longer being hit and sworn at and the screaming and door pounding had stopped, none of these have returned in five years. I now recommend fedup to as many people who will listen. We have gone beyond dabbling now and are about to do our first challenge. We have had a week without blood noses, constant loud voices, outbursts, not being able to sit still etc etc etc. Went away with friends on the weekend and they were amazed at the change - Penelope

See school support factsheets

Here is the first batch of feedback from the petition to remove the natural colour Annatto 160b from Streets food products. 2,333 supporters to date.

PLEASE sign the petition


So many of my clients test up with a reaction to annatto 160b and once eliminated from diet their lives change for the better - Trish (dietitian)

I have a child affected by Annatto 160b and as a dietitian I see many other people affected by this food colour - Jodie (dietitian)

My son would bang his head constantly until I removed this natural colour - Jess

Annatto affects my kids' behaviour. We avoid it at all costs. Why add ANY colouring? Why can't food just be the colour it is supposed to be?! - Kathryn

My child reacts with behavioural issues after 160b - Libby

I have a daughter who reacts badly to annatto 160b. Anger, sleeplessness, slapping her own head repeatedly when angry and not coping: all due to this additive, which is in so, so many food products. Please listen companies, and use alternatives!  - Mel

My child reacts to 160b!!!!! It makes him aggressive and hyperactive. It amazes me that it is still in use when there are known alternatives. Please change!  - Kelly

160b effects children's behaviour and not for the better. How do I know this? Because I have witnessed and a number of occasions now my well behaved daughter turn into a hyper active, defiant and aggressive child within 2 minutes of consuming products within 160b in it - Patricia

A family member is intolerant to 160b. Diagnosed with IBS, Gastro-oesophageal reflux, oesophageal ulceration with associated anaemia from bleeding at 5 yrs and recommended steroids for life. All fixed by removing 160b. This family hasn't had a Streets ice cream in over a decade and a half - Eve

My son reacts to 160b. As a small child he would bang his head on the doormat or concrete floor to get rid of the headache. When we stopped the yoghurt with 160b, the behaviour stopped - Claire.

It causes my son to head bang! - Catherine

My son reacts to 160b - he becomes agitated & loses control etc. We have to avoid any foods that contain it - Julia

I'm signing because 160b makes my daughter aggressive and hyperactive - Rachael

This additive make me very sick and I hate to see children affected by it too -Leigh

I am one of many adults adversely affected by 160b. In fact, I have come close to dying on three occasions due to 160b - Marian

Within minutes of eating 160b my daughter is screaming, yelling and crying and hitting herself in the head. I avoid 160b like the plague - Kalista

I am signing because I cannot live with my children when they are 160b affected. Without that additive they return to human form! - Judy

160B causes me to have post nasal drip as well as insomnia - Carol

160b is an unnecessary food additive. Natural does not always mean good, as in this case with massive headache and irritation a common effect -Kathleen

I have adult children that have reacted to 160b all of their life, nasty additive that adds nothing to the icecream except a headache, bad behaviour and rashes! We have only ever purchased icecream without this additive - Janelye

Annatto sends my kids nuts!!!!! SO I can't buy any products with this in it. Remove so we don't miss out! - Bellinda

Such a nasty natural food colouring and very toxic for many kids, including one of my boys. A tiny amount causes extreme behavioural issues - Schana

My son started headbanging, pinching, punching the same time that I weaned him using a milk and yoghurt mix (as he hated plain milk). I found out many months later that this yoghurt contained annatto 160b - Renee

I have seen first hand what annatto 160b, can do. I am very careful when I shop, look at food labels, with my yellow fedup card. that magnifies everything. My son had some nasty reactions, when he consumed 160b, these included head banging as a baby/toddler. His eyes go glassy, same as when he has consumed artificial colors. Bad headaches as he was older, for myself as the mother migraines from yogurts, also found in plastic cheese, icecream. Another company that needs to remove 160b is Aldi, there were many products a few months ago that contained 160b - Nicole

We have allergies to annatto - Brooke

Both my son and I are allergic to 160b - we swell up and have full body hives. We are constantly having to avoid certain foods because of the unnecessary use of this colouring - Danielle

I am an adult who cannot tolerate 160b in my diet. It causes severe physical pain. The safer alternative should be used to protect children and others who are affected. Personally it took years for me to discover that this was a source of my pain - Bronwyn

160b affects my son. He says it is like a switch flicks in his head and he can't stop - Julie

I have 2 daughters that become violent and angry after consuming 160b - Rebecca

Annatto is one of the main things that I need to keep out of my son's diet, he cannot control his temper when he eats something containing it and is generally cranky and violent - Kristy

I am in my 40's and it took a long time to discover that Annatto 160b is one of the triggers of ibs, sinus and arthritis. It is unnecessary and should be banned - Hilary

I am in my sixties and I react to Annato160b with dreadful hives. Please remove this colouring and therefore increase the range of foods I can eat - Ann

My mother cannot have Annatto 160b because it increases her heart rate, gives her insomnia and makes her feel uptight and agitated - Annette

Both my children have intolerances to food colourings. Annatto I find is the worst!! My son is like a monster when he has Annatto. His behaviour and tantrums are uncontrollable, he bed wets, gets a headache and complains of itchy skin! Stop poisoning our children when there are natural SAFE alternatives - Rachael

My children react badly to 160b. I will not buy any product with 160b. It isn't worth the days of aggressive behaviour - Raelene

Our oldest son born in 1968 was effected by 160b he will be 50 in 2018, is it not amazing that this additive can still when it still has such a detrimental effect on the brain .I believe that FSANZ is there purely to serve the corporations not to protect the consumer - Graeme

Both my daughters have severe reactions to 160b. Both behaviorally and with nasty eczema-like rashes. I want them to be able to eat ice cream without pain! - Zoe

We have lived with the behavioural effects of this additive and it needs to go - Melissa

I'm signing this petition because my son has a total change in his character when he has 160b, and is completely uncontrollable. I do not buy products with 160b in them - Sue

For reasons stated I refuse to use products with annatto...my child becomes silly and hyperactive...this would save all of those children hose parents are not aware what annatto is doing - Sandra

My Children react to 160b, it makes them angry. We don’t buy *any* products which contain it - Daryl

I'm signing because my children have shown reactions including rashes towards 160b in the past and I avoid products that contain it - I'd rather have a wider range of choices when I shop! - Robyn

My children are effected by an attitude 160b - Melissa

I see my children turn into monsters when they eat 160b - Kristina

I have a grandson who reacts badly to Annatto, his behavior was terrible during the last school Holidays and I have traced it to Annatto. Please remove it from your products - Carol

My emotions go 'all over the ship' when I eat anything with 160b in it. I avoid it like the plague - Julie

My son is intolerant to 160b and for the past 5yrs we have not purchased any products containing this ingredient. It causes severe head banging and behavioural issues - Nicole F

This food colouring always sends my daughter into depression - Nicole J

160b has a terrible effect on me causing insomnia and migraines. I can't buy products with this chemical in it. Please take it out for my sake (and the kids affected too) - Peter

Through the elimination diet we discovered that two of my daughter’s severe eczema was caused by 160B. I've decided, after seeing what it does to those two children, that no one in the family should consume it - Stephanie

We have been avoiding annatto for years as it keeps my husband and 3 children awake and feeling wired for hours if they have it at dinner time - Jessica

Eating foods coloured with annatto 160(b) causes irrational anger and increased impatience in my 35-year-old self, so I'm not surprised that it causes such self-harming behaviour in children. I would love to have a greater variety of dessert products available to myself and my family - Keira

Annatto causes my son to head bang and have night terrors. We do not by streets products currently due to the fact that this colour is used. Please think our your consumers, many whom are children - Lauren

I have seen the effect on my child and it isn't pretty. It's actually cruel to give a child something that makes them so distressed - Annabelle

I'm signing because my kids are hyperactive within minutes of ingesting this color ... it's nasty & unnecessary. Use 160a if you must - Jen

160b is one of the main causes of my colitis, clinically proven at RPA hospital! It is terrible stuff - Kate

My kid eats food with annatto and has insomnia, restlessness, anxiety and extreme behaviour. It's not needed. It's a colour. The food tastes the same - Marney

I've spent many nights in the hospital emergency with my daughter suffering severe breathing difficulty after consuming 160b. I have repeatedly asked to have some sort of medical certificate stating that she has an allergy to the additive 160b only to be told that the tree growing the nut that the colour is derived from does not grow in Australia so they were unable to provide it. I have been met with "crazy lady" looks at every which turn. My son also exhibits behavioural problems after consumption. What are we really exposing our children to in unnatural proportions? All for unnatural aesthetics - Sandra

My daughter has behavioural issues when eating 160b. We will not give her products with this ingredient - Euan

My son gets terrible stomach aches from 160b - Sarah

This additive affects my son’s behaviour - Marie

My child reacts with aggression every time he consumes annatto - Susie

This colouring causes my daughter lots of behavioural problems and it’s hidden in so many products - Nicole

I've seen this effect on my own daughter - & I work in a school and see how children change almost instantly when consuming this additive/colour. So many foods aimed at kids contain this. It's just not necessary and irresponsible to continue its use - Karissa.

Annatto makes me irritable and snappy. It makes all four of my kids aggressive and shouty and nasty to each other. We do not buy any product that has it in, and I believe it should not be used at all- there is no need for it to be added to food - Natalie

My son was also negatively affected by 160b. He had a permanent bruise on his forehead and sleep issues until it was completely removed from his diet - Lisa

My son reacts to this additive with headbanging - Heather

I am not able to eat Annatto 160b - gives me severe upset stomach and hives - Julia

1 Daughter anaphylactic 2 all artificial colours including 160b & other daughter gets asthma & it's in a lot of ice creams & I'd like the girls to b able 2 have more choice & not miss out - Katrina

My 4 yr old daughter reacts with aggression to 160b. So I will never buy products containing it. There are much better alternatives and I let my friends know about them too - Melinda

My children react to 160b with aggressive behaviour, sleeplessness and depression - Jennifer

My child is allergic to 160b and this means we have ONE choice of which product we can buy - Cara

This turns my 3 year old into a head banging crazy mess! Horrible stuff :(  - Annette

This interrupts my 6 year old daughters sleep for several nights in a row. We will not buy streets ice-cream because of this - Amanda

One of my children is affected by annatto. He becomes naughty, doesn't listen or comprehend, goes high as a kite. It is in foods even like some yogurts and cheeses - Kristine.

My daughter reacts to 160b. Thank goodness we worked out what was causing her terrible behavior before she was seriously hurt - Marika

My son reacts badly to annatto. Raised white spots all over his ears patches over his face. Gets extremely confused can’t concentrate on anything and feels very ill - Danielle

I want to be able to feed my 4 children and myself icecream which isn't going to keep us awake all night - Madeline

My 2 daughter had a permanent bruise on her forehead for about 6 months when she started solids from banging her head on walls, her cot, the porcelain tiles, on the floor and head butting me. I was so worried she was doing permanent damage and I asked about it on a mothers’ forum. Someone suggested 160b was the cause and it was in the cheese singles that she ate everyday. I stopped the 160b and it turned off like a tap. The headbanging only began again when she ate something containing 160b. It is banned in my house now! - Anita

My daughter reacts to 160B, at 10 months old she would bounce her head off our tiled floor and was all round violent and aggressive. Even now at 3 1/2 if she starts acting out we look back at what she has eaten and 160b is always the culprit - Jennifer

I’m signing this petition as my 3 children react aggressively when they ingest Annatto (160b) - Alison

I am signing because 160b gives me migraine. Please remove it from all products - Judith

I notice that 160b affects my kids’ behaviour and hence I make a point not to buy them anything that I am aware that has it in - Renae

PLEASE sign the petition


I have suffered from acne rosacea for the past 5 years and from symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis for the past several months (I am 32).

In a desperate attempt to improve things, I have been gluten and dairy free for the past 2 months and have eaten nothing but vegetables for the past 2 weeks, but I have yet to see my symptoms resolve, although my acne certainly improved after removing dairy products from my diet. I suspect I may salicylate intolerant after coming across your website today, as many of my rosacea triggers seem to be high salicylate foods.

Update: Three days ago, I commenced a diet of red lentils, brussel sprouts and cabbage and have been able to stop taking my rosacea medication for the first time in the 5 years since my diagnosis. I am also free of joint pain!

Update on day 6 of low salicylates: I have a little stiffness in one of my finger joints today but still no rosacea flushes, and that's totally astonishing to me after so many years on medication. With the exception of one very good dermatologist in Sydney, I've rarely met anyone who knows more about rosacea than I do (GPs included!) and I have tried almost every known medication and procedure for it over the past 5 years. That the answer might be as simple as eliminating sals (and vasodilators, of course - alcohol in drinks and products, caffeine, certain medications and the theobromine in chocolate have always been my worst triggers) is a revelation! Eliminating dairy cured my hormonal acne but rosacea is another issue entirely.

I am very impressed with my results thus far and most grateful for your website. If it wasn't for that, I would never have tried this. I made an appointment with one of your listed dietitians so I can begin putting together a healthier diet for myself under her supervision. The appointment went well. She believes I may be on the right track in my avoidance of salicylates and has put me on the strictest form of the RPAH Elimination Diet for the next fortnight, and then I will be reviewed.

I will let you know how I go with the challenges. You can't begin to imagine how it will change my life if these good effects continue. Normally, without medication, I am unable to brush my teeth, take hot showers, have a hot drink, eat hot food, sit in a hot car or room, lie on my side on my pillow, exercise or face stressful situations without a painful, burning, deep red facial flush developing. I had forgotten, until now, what it feels like to just be normal!

Thank you for putting together such a comprehensive online resource. It appears it may be my way out of a lifetime of potentially harmful prescription medications. - Amy, Qld

I am allergic to cochineal otherwise known as e120 or carmine. My reactions are anaphylactic! I always keep antihistamine with me since my first few attacks. I have been admitted to the emergency ward approx 4 times before I worked out what I was allergic to.

Carmine is not tested for as part of the general allergy tests of cat hair, dust ...etc. I spent hundreds of $ in tests and useless consultations. Finally I collected the ingredients from the back of packaging of recent foods consumed when I had the allergy attack and concluded the common ingredient was the e120 red food colouring. I don't know how colour from crushed dried pregnant bugs can be passed as natural for strawberry, cherry, berries - almost every red coloured food is coloured by this bug and its far-from-natural fruit colour!

I strongly believe that my first allergic reactions was when this colour additive started to be used approx 23 years ago. I distinctly remember my first ever attack and trace it to the red icy pole ice block - a treat I could always enjoy until they changed red food colouring. My first-ever reaction was massive red welts all over my body, very itchy - and this occurred at work after consuming the iceblock. For 17 years I did not know what caused my allergy - and my reactions were so severe - mostly instant itchy eyes then swell until I can't open my eyes - the battered wife look. Then swelling of the throat and rash all over my body. This food colouring is in so many food types - lollies , biscuits, cake mix, cereal , icecreams , yogurts, soup, drinks ..anything red on the super market shelf would 99% of the time contain carmine. I know because I have had allergic attacks after consuming all these.

If your child has an allergic reaction, I recommend checking if e120 is in the ingredient. Also carmine is used in makeup - pink eye shadow can cause alot of itchy grief.  It is not 'in my mind' as family so easily accused - it is in this cochineal. Please be warned.

I feel compelled to share this story because I haven't heard of many other people with this allergy and it could be more common than not - from failsafe forum.

My 3.5 yo son was an extremely unsettled baby, even as early as in the womb he wouldn't stay still for very long and always seemed 'uncomfortable' in there. He was born screaming and rarely stopped until he was about 2 years old. It was an extremely difficult time. He rarely slept and rarely ate, was very serious and 'sensitive' (to everything; stimulation, noise, smells, tags on clothes, touch...).  He has always also been extremely bright and advanced in terms of his speech, comprehension, creativity and emotional intelligence. He presents well, and grew and put on weight and reached milestones, so doctors never really believed that there was anything 'wrong' with him and I believe that it was put down to parental anxiety.

He slowly got better as he grew older but still continues to be extremely sensitive. His tantrums are atrocious and can be set off by the slightest thing. He seems almost constantly irritable. His symptoms seem to fit the symptoms you describe of food intolerance. So we started the RPAH elimination diet excluding dairy as well 24 days ago. For almost the whole first three weeks, his good days got better ( he is more compliant than ever, significantly kinder to his brother, shares, helps around the house, can sit still and do a task, can play on his own for long periods of time!!) but his bad days got worse. He had worse tantrums and more of them since being on the diet. At first I thought they were withdrawal symptoms, then I thought perhaps I was doing something wrong ... but things are continuing to improve every single day and we are having less and less tantrums so perhaps it just took a little longer with our son.

Although we are still having some issues, this has helped us SO MUCH! Thank you for helping me to be able to enjoy my kids again! There is so much more joy and peace in our home, thanks to you! My husband is amazed at the difference. He joked that if our kids were like this we could easily have 10! Thank you again. This has been the most life changing thing we have ever done. - Janette, by email

Well after having 3 weeks off (school holidays and a cruise) we are on Day 5 of strict elimination and welcomed back our 2 delightful kids (8 & 5) today after having 2 little ferals (said with love) for the last couple of weeks!! - Samantha

Received an email today advising that my 7yo responded to an accidental bump to the mouth in the playground by remaining calm and in control and approaching a teacher for help, even though he was hurt and crying. Previous incidents of a similar nature have resulted in him punching, kicking and screaming at the other kid as well as any unfortunate bystanders, taking up to an hour to calm down. Two weeks fs. Winning - Lauren

One of my twins was so horrible l was going to give him to human services for a few days to give me and mine a break so they could monitor him and see what help I could be given.  Then six weeks ago we started failsafe and l have a new kid. He helps me cook and clean, asks if there are any jobs to do,  mostly does his chores. Everything works best when no ds around.  Chats to us especially hubby who he was prickly around.  Beautiful improvements. - Adele, by email

Your information cured my dermatitis. I was using coconut oil as a moisturiser and seemed to be forever breaking out in dermatitis on the back of my hand. I would go to the garden and cut off a leaf of aloe vera to treat it. Needless to say it got worse! So then I would use prescription cortisone cream (which would give me a headache!) to heal it. I stopped the coconut oil and aloe vera (after finding out that they are both high in salicylates) and haven't had any skin issues since. - Donna, Qld

I'm having several issues with my almost 5 month old bub. He has had green poos now for 2 weeks, lots of snotty noses even though he doesn't have a cold plus lots of dry skin with a small patch on his leg (possible eczema). Previous to this he has been an extremely easy, happy bub that loves his milk (gaining loads till now) and is a fantastic sleeper.

My issue is that he is screaming uncontrollably at my breast atm, my fast let down has him happy till it slows down then he screams the place down. This is usually 2 minutes into a feed. I have tried everything to keep him happy on the breast to no avail, he is hysterical and seems very hungry.

I've been dealing with this for a couple of weeks now but last night he was screaming uncontrollably from 11pm to 4am. So out of character. This time it seemed like pain as he wasn't feeding not interested in feeding. My intuition believes he may be showing signs of a sensitivity to something in my milk. My diet has not changed at all. I was eating mandarins a couple of weeks ago but stopped when someone said they are not recommended when breastfeeding.

UPDATE 3 weeks later ... Well it appears by eliminating tomatoes, salad, avocado, banana and the original mandarins I have a little boy now doing perfect poops! I now believe it was the mandarins that took me over the edge as well as half an avocado every day.- Gabrielle, by email

Sue’s comment:

Other foods that are very high in salicylate & amines include citrus, berries,  dried fruit, grapes, kiwi fruit, passionfruit, pineapple, all fruit juices and fruit flavoured products including jams, avocadoes,  tomato based sauces, herbs and spices including mint, mushrooms, eggplant, spinach, pickled vegetables and vegetable soups, sauces and stock cubes. See salicylates factsheet

My son's grade one teacher wanted us to get him ˜labelled" for funding to get him extra class support. After a very well written note from her the paediatrician wanted to test him for ADHD and that night I googled ADHD and diet and found you. The very next day I took the shopping list to Woolworths and spent the day restocking our pantry, cooking and making dietician appointments. We fell in love with our son all over again and the last 18 months have been an amazing journey of learning for all of us. Our son still makes poor choices (as all humans do) but I passionately believe he never had ADHD he was just a normal little boy who was moderately salicylate intolerant! - Lisa, by email

I came to your talk a week ago. I already knew that my son reacted badly to colours (annatto 160b, brilliant blue 133 and tartrazine yellow 102).  Much to my dismay the next day was his 4th birthday and at 12 noon my dad bought him a cinnamon donut as a treat. At 2.30pm my son had a major meltdown - screaming, aggression, severe defiance to the point he managed to undo his seat belt while I was driving and jump over and try and hit me laughing almost hysterically. This lasted for a good 3 or 4 hours then he crashed and lay almost in a glazed eyed stupor for an hour then reignited for defiance at bed time. This more than anything has convinced me that he has food intolerances. A friend of mine with a similar child is ready to try also so we are going to support each other through this with the hopes that we can both have happy healthy children.

Two weeks later

I just wanted to let you know how our food journey is going with my son and his behaviour. We saw our Dr last week to get a referral for a dietician and the Dr was very sceptical but the nurse was supportive and helped me get into see a dietician not the one I wanted on your list but one who visits once a week. She was brilliant she knew all about you and the fed up website she had your book and was very excited to work with a child that has possible behavioural issues with food, as she normally works with adults at the hospital.

Even before this I have mostly been following the failsafe diet and his behaviour has gotten a lot better. We still have moments and I can mostly put that down to my own fault as I have fed him something that I knew I shouldn't. It’s very hard to go to the movies in a group and not let him have popcorn when everyone else is eating it. - by email.

Sue's comment:

1. What’s in a cinnamon donut that could cause a massive meltdown? Dunkindonuts list cinnamon (high in sals) and … annatto extracts (as you’ve already discovered, worse than artificial colours for some people). No wonder your son reacted! See annatto 160b factsheet

2. How to deal with social situations like cinema popcorn:  People on the facebook group often have useful suggestions,  for example, buying something else that won't affect them too badly (e.g. Maltesers can be okay unless you have an extreme amine responder). Or you may be able to take your own food, thanks to our member Caroline who wrote to Amalgamated Holdings (the Greater Union Cinema chain) in Sept 2005 about the ban on taking your own food into their cinemas. She also noted that Event Cinemas clarified in November 2011:  "’no externally purchased HOT food items are allowed to be brought into our cinemas’ -  (although some cinemas do permit them and the written conditions still say no food at all)". You may be able to smuggle cold food in if you do it discreetly. Failsafers often recommend the Nature Valley Maple Crunch muesli bars - not fully failsafe so not okay for your strict elimination diet, but a lot of people say they are okay as treats. See more at http://fedup.com.au/information/fin-campaigns/what-you-can-do-to-help

Our son has been failsafe since your talk last year and we have seen a huge improvement in him. We know he is very sensitive but when he had a mild gastro bug recently we  bought a lemonade flavoured colour-free electrolyte product thinking it would be okay. Bad mistake!!! After about four hours he was “wired” – restless, extremely agitated and wide awake for hours in the middle of the night, he couldn’t get to sleep, just like he used to be before the diet. The hydralyte drink contained preservatives sodium benzoate (211) and potassium sorbate (202) and a natural flavour. We won’t be buying it again! 

NOTE: You can make your own, see our rehydration drink recipe:

According to the DAA (Dietitians Association of Australia), studies show that flavoured sports drinks with added carbohydrate and sodium assist in preventing dehydration, particularly for high physical activity or in hot conditions. To avoid nasty additives, you can make your own sports drink.

For rehydration
I litre water
2-4 tbsp sugar, glucose or similar such as Polycose
¼ tsp salt
PLUS for flavour
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp citric acid or to taste

http://www.fedup.com.au/recipes/other-recipes-and-hints/failsafe-sports-drink-1 and another from WHO http://fedup.com.au/recipes/other-recipes-and-hints/failsafe-sports-drink-2-home-made-staminade-recipe-from-who

After nearly 4 years of significant sleep problems with my son, we now describe both our children as very good sleepers, and this is entirely due to diet.  My son is also doing extremely well in school, again entirely thanks to dietary changes.

Like you, we did the rounds of GPs, paediatricians, psychologists, social workers, OTs and child health nurses, and all the interventions and treatments helped a little, but nothing led to any significant improvement.  Not once was diet mentioned beyond ‘does he eat well?’

 We had a long appointment with a paediatric sleep specialist who went through our entire lifestyle and bedtime routine with us, before apologetically telling us that we were doing all the right things, and that he didn’t know what else he could suggest.  He made no reference to diet. 

Having seen the extreme improvement in sleep following dietary intervention with my son I was very keen to write and tell him, because I think he genuinely wanted to help us and couldn’t, and I could hardly believe that he had no knowledge of the significant impact diet can have on sleep. 

On further consideration, I decided that I would write to every health professional we had consulted with, because time and time again we were met with utter bewilderment.  My son’s behaviour looked a bit like OCD, ADHD, ADD, ASD, ODD and sensory processing disorder, but it didn’t quite fit the diagnosis, and the treatments were ineffective. If only food intolerance had been on someone’s list of differential diagnoses!

I posed the question on the facebook forum a while back, ‘how did people come to the realisation that diet was the issue?’  For most it was random chance, a friend of a friend had a child who had improved hugely from diet, or a class teacher had mentioned something. This is not how the diagnosis should be made.
I am attaching an example/suggested format for a letter that could be sent to health professionals (see below).

I will be writing to every health professional I have encountered in an attempt to both assist them in helping others, and to get food intolerance widely recognised as a diagnosis. - Ursula, by email


Dear Dr <name of doctor>

Re: <Name of child>  DOB: <date of birth>

You may remember that we consulted with you around six months ago regarding our son John.  John has had a history of sleep problems since birth, including taking 2-3 hours to settle to sleep, night terrors, insomnia and excessive movement during sleep.  At that time you were unable to offer us any advice or treatment regarding these problems, which had remained unresolved despite behavioural intervention, careful attention to night time routine, and consistent age-appropriate bedtimes.

Following our consultation, we stumbled across the idea that sleep problems can be linked to food, even some foods which are normally perceived as healthy.  We have now been working with an accredited dietician for four months following the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) Elimination diet.  I am very pleased to report that as a result of this intervention we no longer consider John to have any sleep problems whatsoever.  He now settles calmly to sleep within 15-30minutes, sleeps through the night, waking only very occasionally, maybe once every six weeks or so.  He also no longer suffers with night terrors.

I wanted to write and tell you about our experience in the hope that this information might benefit some of your other patients in future.  You can find more information about the RPAH elimination diet on their website: http://allergy.net.au, and also from the Food Intolerance Network: http://fedup.com.au which is a voluntary organisation promoting the RPAH work and providing evidence-based information regarding food intolerance.

I hope this information is of use to you, for us, it has been life-changing.

Yours sincerely,

<your signature>

DAY 5: OMG! Well I might be jinxing it, but Master 5 has woken up more calm and more polite than I've seen in about 2 years. He stayed in bed for almost AN HOUR reading while I made breakfast, he got dressed at my first request in less than a minute and his manners have been flawless so far!
      LATER: Um....what is going on? Day 5 and he's vacuuming and cleaning his room? - Evelyn

I recall miss 3 yo waking from day sleep, put her hand to her head and said " I don't have a head ache" that was 7 years ago . She has not looked back, now the brightest happiest most confident 10 year old in her class. Massive salicylate intolerance. Hang in there it is worth it. - Barbara

Never before has my 7yo sat through a movie, I don't think! Today we had a blissful Sunday afternoon movie session with NO ISSUES and now he has polished off a full plate of dinner. Ah the small things that are massive - Sarah

Has anyone had any success with managing depression with diet? - Mary

Removing salicylates worked a treat for me smile emoticon - Anna

My brother in law has removed gluten from his diet and his bouts of anxiety and depression have basically vanished - Sarah

Paleo can be very effective. You can follow Pete Evans page which has stories from people on paleo. Lots there about helping with depression - Erin (There are other views about Paleo, see http://scepticalnutritionist.com.au/?p=1523 for example)

Glutamates and amines and additives are all likely culprits too. Paleo is great but not if you have amine or salicylate problems, try the elimination and see if it gives you some answers and then you can move onto other ways of eating with confidence.  - Shannon

And also putting lots of exercise. I've always found exercise, just walking, really helps me. The hard bit is that when I feel down I don't want to help myself..but I know I have to - Toni

I found a huge difference when I eliminated sugar as much as possible and coffee, upped water intake and eliminated gluten, even if you try it for 2 weeks you will feel a huge difference and see what a difference it can make - Anna

Honestly, yes. I have eased my anxiety and frequent panic attacks by about 90% after eliminating sals and additives (and the remaining 10% do occur when I cheat too much or if I'm having a reaction). I had episodes of major depression in my life and I also feel like I have had much better control over my emotions. Try exercise too, it's magical - Jessica

Yep sals, amines and additives for me. I pay for it when I cheat. Though I've been doing fs (for kids) in conjunction with meds - Emma

Amines makes me seriously depressed. And to think of all the chocolate I ate when I was depressed was only making it worse! - Carla

Amines make me depressed too. My GP looks at me like I've lost the plot when I tell her this - Rachel

I firmly believe that my daughter is alive today because of failsafe. Severe childhood depression, suicidal tendencies and anxiety. When she slips off the diet, her symptoms resurface. She is now 23 and keeping on a somewhat even keel, despite going through a lot of horrible times over the past 24 months our so - Sharon

See factsheet on depression and story collection on depression

Failsafe eating has been a huge help in managing my anxiety and depression, along with a very supportive husband and extended family, exercise and seeking help from supportive health professionals (dietitian, GP and psychologist). I’ve struggled in the past and now realise that those times coincided with an increase in processed foods, takeaways and chocolate.

For me, amines are the worst trigger for low mood, causing a ‘spaced out’ feeling, irritability, noise sensitivity as well as muscle pains. It is usually worst about three days after eating the offending food. I am also sensitive to dairy and very high salicylates.

My children (ages 7, 5 and 17 months) are very sensitive to salicylates, amines, dairy and additives/preservatives. I discovered my intolerances by doing the elimination diet while breastfeeding and found that keeping to low chemical foods helped my babies sleep a bit better and therefore helped my sleep and mood symptoms.

These days, I am very aware of my mood symptoms and have a management plan in place should I feel myself slipping. I credit failsafe eating with helping me return to a brighter mood relatively quickly and avoiding a relapse of postnatal depression with my second and third children. I notice an interaction with hormones as well, and the period after weaning from breastfeeding is always tricky, trying to balance my desire to eat a wider diet with the change in hormones. During breastfeeding, I sometimes noticed "depressive/dysphoric milk ejection reflex" which has been linked to dopamine levels. ( http://www.d-mer.org/Home_Page.html )

These days, I eat out very occasionally but always return to failsafe eating at home, as it’s not worth those wasted days feeling miserable and missing out on life. Thanks again for all you do in raising awareness of failsafe eating, for both adults and children - Amelia

I regularly see a psychologist having suffered from depression, anxiety and paranoia of varying degrees over the last 6 years some of which was due to a trauma I suffered in 2012. Although I refused medication my symptoms did get incredibly severe at many points in this time. I found that seeing a psychologist slowly helped in relation to the trauma and eating “clean” and doing very regular exercise helped overall, but I still wasn’t anywhere near well. It wasn’t until last year when I saw a dietitian for bowel, fatigue and skin problems that I realised what I was eating could be affecting my overall mental health. Although I saw my dietician regularly at the start of my diet change, I rarely saw her after the first 6 months. The fed up website, Facebook group, “Tolerating troublesome foods” and the RPAH elimination diet book were the best resources for me; my dietician usually referred me back to them anyway. I only speak to her when I need specific advice as I found just talking through symptoms with my partner and family, keeping a food diary (essential!) and regularly seeing my psychologist were the best ways for me to see changes and keep tabs on my symptoms. Having said this i would definitely recommend having a professional supervise you when starting out.

I did the elimination diet/challenges and found I felt much better when fs, proving that salicylates caused many symptoms I hadn’t realised I had, to name a few: fatigue, inability to concentrate, terrible motor skills, foggy head and sleepless nights. As you can imagine these symptoms all contributed negatively to my mental health. I'm still working on finding what foods aggravate depression for me as I’ve been yo-yoing on and off the diet. I suspect my dairy and sals intolerance together being the main foods contributing to my depression but I really can’t say that for certain yet.

I recently found that soy severely triggers anxiety attacks for me. Caffeine also has a severe effect on my mood sometimes even decaf leaves me agitated and restless so I'm starting to think legumes could be a major issue for me. Of course the severity of my symptoms does change with the environmental factors and stresses that I’m experiencing at the time, however I am certain now that the soy mocha coffees that I used to drink every day, the rich tomato sauces, dark green vegetables, loads of fruit and juices that I loved so much (which I thought at the time were so healthy for me!) all very negatively impacted my mental health.

Now while maintaining a low–moderate salicylate, dairy, soy and caffeine free diet I feel much better mentally and physically. I’m always encouraging my family to try the diet as I know they have very similar symptoms to me and I’m almost certain it will be due to the same intolerance. I still have a long way to go in testing other food chemicals but just by removing some foods I feel like I’ve changed my entire life! - Sue

See factsheet on depression and story collection on depression

I would like to write our story, share our arduous journey and finally, how after reading your materials which you have so generously shared, show how they conclusively led to her recovery from "Eczema". As you have noticed, I have used eczema in inverted commas. The reason is simple; I never believed it was Eczema as diagnosed by the medical professional but was lost on how to manage it until we chanced upon your work.

It started when our daughter, Y, was about 3 years old (that was 4 years ago). She started developing some itchy, angry rash on the back of her knees, which led her to instinctively scratch it furiously. These rashes were not normal; they were persistent and appeared intensely itchy. The constant scratching soon led to bleeding and raw open wounds which were highly susceptible to infection. This rash soon started appearing on her ankles too. Naturally, like most parents, we brought to a Pediatrician and it was diagnosed as "Eczema".  Steroids were prescribed and, of course, the rash magically disappears when applied topically. However, like time and tides, it came back after a period of recess and this recess appeared to be shorter and shorter with each steroid application. The rash, too, became angrier and angrier. We subsequently brought her to a renowned dermatologist pediatrician, which also came out with the diagnosis...... "Eczema" and prescribed stronger classes of steroids. The 3rd and 4th opinion from the "best" medical practitioners in the country also produced the same conclusion "Eczema" and the solutions revolved around topical steroid applications, wet wrapping the child with steroid to infuse the medication and once, oral steroid was prescribed. The message from the medical professionals, like an orchestrated symphony, were the same; it cannot be cured, it is hereditary, it is not food related and long term use of steroid was the only option for her to lead a normal life. Call it delusional but we soon realized that this cannot be true and we did not want our child to be dependent on drugs which have the potential to cause ill health (such as cataracts, hormonal issues) in the long run. Normal human beings are not built to be dependent on man-made drugs. It had to be something else that is constantly triggering this response as it does not seem like conventional eczema as it was more "raised bumps" than dry skin. We had to find out.

The first thing we embarked on was to stop all steroid applications. This was necessary as steroids masked the inflammatory response and was not helpful in our investigation towards the triggers. This process was hard and arduous. Without the steroids, the rash unleashed its full potential, it was intensely itchy, red, hot and inflamed much liken to a chemical burn. We learnt that this is what is deemed as steroid withdrawal symptoms. The steroid acted like an opaque cage holding a progressively hungry lion within. Once the effects of the steroid wears off, the cage disappears and all hell breaks loose. The first 6 months of this period was the hardest, everyone lost sleep as the itch was the most intense from 2am to 6am as the body cortisol level were the lowest and the liver was detoxing. We had to make sure she did not scratch herself silly and had to constantly apply creams like calendura creams, coal tar cream, throughout the night.

Next, we tried multiple alternative treatments to align the body "imbalances"; Traditional Chinese Medicine, Bio Resonance Therapy, Osteopath spinal calibration. They had varying effects but did not seem to have significant improvements.  

We gathered that the trigger must be from the environment as the rash, which grows and wanes, is localized only at the back of her knees and ankles. This could mean the air she breathes, the food and drink, the clothes she wears, even the EMF she was exposed to was considered. HEPA air filters, dust mite free sheets, 100% cotton clothes, purified fluorine free water, BPA free bottles and EMF measurement were the easy part but it did not help much.

We deduced that it was food related (i.e. intolerance) as it appeared worst (rash spreads and become more itchy) after consuming certain foods. Keeping out processed food, seafood, gluten, diary, eggs was easy but the rash was still there. We started keeping a food diary but it did not help much as they are delayed reactions. Certain foods like apples, tomatoes were quite clear but we were not sure why but we avoided them anyway. We thought it could be pesticides, fructose or salicylates but who knows? To get some guidance, we brought our daughter for a skin prick test (IGE) and IGG blood test. The IGE test indicated dust mites (duh!) and IGG test indicate a whole host of food including eggs, diary, apples, leek, avocados, all types of fish,  etc...  It did not help much as the food to avoid is almost everything. We tried to follow the IGG recommendations are much as possible. It helped a little but she did not heal completely.

The big break came when we had the chance to move to Australia. While in Australia, for a period of 1 month, she had clear skin. We did not know why but it was definitely food related but we had stopped the food diary. We know for sure it was food and tried to replicate our diet but the rash rebounded. Finally we chanced upon the FEDUP book and the failsafe diet. We decided to put her on the FAILSAFE diet as there were safe alternatives, healthy choices and clear indication of what is high in salicylates or amines. We started the FAILSAFE diet on mid May 2015, two weeks later, it got worst (withdrawal) and subsequently the skin cleared completely within another 2 - 3 weeks. It has remained clear ever since. Somehow it is making sense now, the apples, avocados, sushi vinegar, apple cider vinegar, brocolli, sweet potatoes were her favorite foods. The outbreak of intense itchiness on scalp and skin after consuming Ibuprofen when having fever. These products are all high in salicyclates.

Now we are on the process of challenging back some of the food to measure her tolerance. We are happy to have bitten the bullet (4 years of hell) instead of taking the easy path (applying steroids). With the help of Dr Howard Dengate, Ms Sue Dengate and the FAILSAFE group team, we are grateful of all your support. We hope to share this positive experience with the Eczema support group which we belong to in Singapore. This can, hopefully, create the awareness where as far as we can observe, almost every other child has some kind of "Eczema", "Asthma" or other conditions. The rates of ADHD, Autism and other mental related conditions of varying degree are also on the rise.

Once again, thank you and hope you do not find the mail too lengthy - Herman from Fedup Roadshow.

Tonight when my husband got home from work and the kids were asleep - I didn't fall in a heap and cry to him 'What is wrong with our daughter? Why can't she just be normal??!!!!!' I've done that every night for as long as I can remember? Maybe even since she was a fractious baby... but tonight I didn't do that. I said to him as I was cleaning up the kitchen, 'She is so lovely! She is just so, so, (trying to find the word...) NORMAL!' Finally!! Thank you RPAH and Failsafe for changing our lives!! Tonight my mind (and body) are not shattered from dealing with meltdown after meltdown - because there are no longer any meltdowns!! - Beth

Food additives and associated behaviour symptoms from 4 years old onwards. The same boy, now aged 6, is now settled on the correct diet.

160b annatto, high salicylates, glutamates and MSG - observed behaviour: defiance, prolonged tantrums, aggressive (out of character), poor concentration, irritable, difficulty settling at night for up to one week.

123 amaranth red food dye on butcher’s ink on leg of lamb - observed behaviour: unusual behaviour, difficult to settle, loud noises in this child and his 8 yo brother for a few days, tantrums, teary for 2 weeks.

320 BHA synthetic antioxidant - observed behaviour: defiance, difficulty settling at night for up to 2 weeks.

The above observations were made over two years by a General Practitioner without using a dietitian - Helen GP by email.

(We’d be interested to hear of other reactions to the red dye used on meat in Australia. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and they will be added to this report)

As a toddler, my son had spectacular, but introverted tantrums, where he threw himself at the floor and howled like a dingo.  The best solution was to drop a heavy blanket on him, and leave him to it, until he went to sleep.  If I intervened with a cuddle, reassurance or any form of stimulation, the tantrum escalated.

At pre-school he took himself to bed crying after every single birthday party, and went 'crazy' when we took him camping. He was often hyper sensitive to clothing labels, music (especially classics in minor keys) and visual distractions. His peers labelled him a cry-baby, and his pre-school wanted to keep him back from school.  Later, his primary school teachers suggested he had ADHD, was somewhere on the Autism spectrum, and a 'difficult, anxious' child.  We went for testing which showed generally moderately delayed development, so we did occupational and literacy therapy.

I assumed the birthday party issue was linked to food, and cut out all artificial colours and preservatives.  This led to a big improvement. The breakthrough came because he ate toasted Kraft cheese sandwiches (it melted really well), a couple of hours before Wednesday swimming lessons (where he went to pieces), but not on Saturdays (with the same teacher).  I worked out the only difference between those lessons was the cheese beforehand.  When I cut out the cheese he was more cooperative and had a longer attention span.

I searched the internet to find out if there was such a thing as an "allergy" which changed a person's behaviour, and found your website.  I recall reading about Annatto, head banging, yellow foods and inconsolable toddlers, and thinking "Some of that sounds familiar".  That shred of knowledge led to a diet review, and the discovery that frankfurts, pizzas, Kraft cheese, madeira cake and 'fruit juice' contained Annatto, which might explain his post-party meltdowns.  Our camping treat was powdered custard, and our lunch time staple was processed cheese, which could explain the camping craziness.  'Special' afternoon teas were fish fingers on toast and toasted cheese sandwiches.  Annatto in everything!

I think he was about 4th grade when we succeeded in cutting out Annatto.  His behaviour steadily improved.  When we slipped up and he was accidentally exposed, the teachers could tell, and so could he.  He still had a mild 'language processing disorder', but was now able to contribute effectively in class, and make friends.  He felt the difference, and was keen to avoid annatto by checking all his food.

He came home from school camps and said 'there was nothing to eat' except fruit, bread and vegetables.  That was true because the breakfast cereal, juice, cheese, ice-cream, custard, crumbed meats, some chips, and some afternoon tea cakes, all contained Annatto. No wonder his first camp was a disaster!  Now, we all had some level of control over Annatto.


At this time I wrote to you regarding my son, and his reaction to Annatto.  I often wondered if we really were on the right track, and if I made a biased assessment of his sensitivity.  Thought you would be interested to hear an update, as he is now 16.

Two years ago he had a 'blind' reaction to Annatto.  He was interstate at a Scout Jamboree, and recorded as Annatto sensitive for his dietary requirements.  Due to very hot weather the Scouts were provided with all sorts of foods and fluids to encourage fluid intake.  My son was provided with commercial package fruit and jelly cups, unlabelled but touted as "natural" which he assumed was OK. After a couple of days, his friends were so concerned at his tears, agitation and aggression, that a group of them fronted the leaders and took him to First Aid.  There, his records were reviewed, and the person seeing him saw his Annatto sensitivity.  He diet was reviewed by a nutritionist who was on site, and who found the unlabelled jelly cups contained Annatto.  He had time out, and compassionate attention from his camp mates, but was still out of sorts a few days later when he came home.  Nonetheless, it was nIce to have an independent event and diagnosis.

He is a different person without Annatto, now getting academic prizes, citizenship and service awards, and a school Gold medal.  Before, various teachers had written him off as difficult, ADHD, and even autism spectrum.  There is hope for desperate parents!

Thank you for helping us through Fed Up!  Without your site information, and guidance on elimination, I am certain he would have been diagnosed with serious mental health issues by now.

I do wonder what is happening in the mental health, prison, and medical institutions.  During a recent visit to the Children's Hospital he was offered custard with Annatto and cheese with Annatto.  How many troubled teens, or even geriatrics, are undiagnosed Annatto reactors, who are then institutionalised, and fed a diet containing Annatto?  How much is Annatto sensitivity costing Medicare and our legal system?

Thanks for your web site, it makes convincing unbelievers so much simpler!  As I say to my son, there are no excuses for bad behaviour, but it certainly helps if there is an explanation. - Anne, by email

See further ADHD factsheeet  and ADHD story collection

I took my son for his first ADHD paediatric psychiatrist visit since being on failsafe. Although the psychiatrist had approved taking him off medication he didn't have it in his notes so we decided to not tell them until after testing that he wasn't medicated. Well, the results were the best he's had in over 7 years. He had greatly improved in all areas academically and his brain function test showed he was much less distracted. These results are better than any he ever had when being medicated so we are very proud of our young man. So glad we decided to take the giant step into the failsafe world. As daunting as it was, the results speak for themselves and it's like second nature these days.

He's very proud of himself too. The absolute biggest thing for us is that he has friends now. No one use to want to play with the naughty kid and I think it's like a domino effect. Each positive thing creates another positive thing - Larissa

(More than 200 people liked this on the facebook group!)

I'm going to bed tonight so happy with my heart full of hope. My husband and I have been talking all evening about how different our 3 year old is since beginning the diet. How 'easy' she's been. (Sigh) 'This' is what parenting should be like. I'm so thrilled my husband can see it too. He works long hours during the week and so he hasn't really seen her enough to be able to notice the dramatic change in her. But this afternoon he said to me 'I agree with you. She's different... But now we've just go to figure out what it is that sets her off.'

I feel dreadful though that we've had about 2.5 years of challenging behaviour and I feel even worse for my poor daughter who clearly couldn't help her behaviour. I wish I'd done this 18 months ago but foolishly I was too sceptical and did not believe that food would make such a difference to our lives! Now to book an appointment with our dietitian to begin discussing the challenges.

It's very emotional. I'm seeing my daughter with new eyes and I'm falling in love with her more each day. I thought she was just destined to be a difficult child...- Beth

Comments by failsafers:

Hey you're doing bloody good to have worked it out by 3. I 'knew' but didn't accept it (sals meltdowns for her are 2-3 days after food then 2 more days to get face rash!) took til she was 5 before we actually stopped sals and found a different child! Well done!  - S

That's what we were like 9 years ago! It was like we got a new son. Just plain old lactose for us. That's all it was. Ours was easy!!! But it made monumental changes to our lives - Kerry-Anne

It's been almost 5 years since we changed our son's diet and still, when reading posts like this, I get very emotional cause it brings back so many memories! I'm so happy for your little family! Life is good! - Carley

To make it easier for us ( going back 6 years now) we put it down to ' today's food is not for our child, so if you couldn't eat it 100 years ago we don't feed them it' it just makes it easier. Make everything from scratch, meal plan, cook and make snacks ahead of the week. It makes kids appreciate food so much better when they help prepare and make it, so get them in the kitchen even just watching is good - Kristie

Well done. So happy for you. My story is exactly the same as yours. I said exactly the same thing when our daughter was also 3 after we had just changed her diet. My hubby was at work a lot too and didn’t see half the behavioural problems that I did. At first the thought I was nuts suggesting that food was the issue, then he apologised to me two weeks later when we had a different child. It is tough though as at first you kinda think that perhaps they are a very spirited child, it’s their age, then you think 'No, something is very wrong here'. Two years later and our daughter had just started school and her teacher comments often on what a lovely child she is, how well behaved and such a good listener. Makes my heart sing. Keep up the good work - Jan

My kids 11 & 13 choose not to eat the foods offered as they know the awful feelings and results. They prefer not to feel that way. They'd much rather eat the "safe" foods we eat in our family - Tanya

To meet our little people for the first time - the beautiful personality he had as a baby and the beautiful boy I know he is deep down. (Just under a layer of fruit!) - L

Exact same boat. We started our almost 4 year old a month ago. Went through strict elimination ...saw massive changes more in fact she was happy, no dark circles under her eyes, wanting to talk every afternoon about her day, no crying every half an hour and listening going to bed without arguments and tears. So it was great to see the changes...and last week started the first challenges. Oh my god. Massive reaction...so just back to baseline again - Steph

And the last word from Beth again:

I waited so long because everyone kept telling me 'oh she'll grow out of it' or 'she's fine' but last year she flipped out at her friend’s house for no reason (I later found out she had eaten something with honey in it). I had to leave the play date and I cried no I sobbed and screamed the whole way home (and so did my daughter) and I rang my mum and I cried and cried and asked her 'what is wrong with her!!!??' That was when I booked an appointment with a paediatrician. And then when we saw the reaction to the Cheezels (no other child was affected) we said 'yes!! She just cannot handle some foods. Let's do this diet!!' We owed it to her. I didn't want her getting to age 13 and feeling so out of control.

This evening I came home to find my husband reading bedtime stories to my 5yr old son and 2yr old daughter, they were both snuggled in quietly absorbed in the story. It has taken my son five and a half weeks to recover from a dairy challenge that he failed on day 3. Three days of milk = 5.5 weeks of angry, oppositional defiant child. My daughter made it to day 6 of the challenge before becoming completely incontinent and we ended up putting her back in pull-ups 6months post-toilet training, I haven't ventured to take these away just yet, I am too busy basking in the lack of oppositional defiance. My husband says I am getting my hopes up too soon, but yesterday was pretty good too, and we haven't had a single ODD day in the last 6 weeks.  Prior to this that I either wanted to be far, far away, or arrived home from work to a full account of angry aggressive, oppositional behaviour. Food intolerance is so very cruel and has a huge impact on quality of life for so many of us on here.

My husband and I used to (only half) joke about how we'd best just pick out a juvenile detention centre instead of a school for my son, his behaviour was so off the wall. I can hardly believe we figured this out in the nick of time, and feel so lucky that we were able to address the larger part of it prior to him starting school. The challenges are horrible, but they are very much "controlled" reactions compared to full-blown diet behaviour.

We should all be acknowledged for our outstanding level of diagnostic skills, many of us have succeeded where many qualified health professionals have failed! - Ursula

Comments from failsafers:

It's huge, isn't it? Different things have made my son aggressive, oppositional, flighty, unable to sleep and incontinent - Stephanie

I am so, so proud of all of us for working to help our kids. As a teacher I've taught kids who are unable to control their behaviour and have parents who aren't able or willing to try new things to help them - Raechel

My youngest reacts that way to strawberries, tomatoes and grapes - they feel so much better too. If she slips now, we know and when she realises, even if she feels like crap, she feels better for having a reason. Good luck, and stick with it, the results are worth it - Meagan

Does anyone else here have nasal polyps? I have had an operation twice to remove them, but I am extremely good at growing them - yay me! Just wondering if there was any relationship to food...  Bronwen from facebook group

Dairy big time for me, have had surgery twice and had constant infections. No dairy = no infections:)  For me neither of my surgeries made the difference that stopping dairy has. I had constant sinus infections. I'm simply nowhere near as mucusy, personally I don't think the ops made much difference for me. My immune system is "compromised" as I'm a cancer patient too so was told I had to have the surgery. Still got infections after the ops, finally went off dairy and taaa daaa its much better. Infections stopped! !  - Rachel from facebook group

I don't get infections, just constant snuffly nose and I always sound like I have a cold. I'm not sure about dairy for me, I grew them just as well when I was drinking soy milk!  - Bronwen

My specialist informed me that he has found a majority of his sinus sufferers find that soy affect them  - Theresa

Yes I have. Definitely caused by foods for me. Low salicylate diet has helped a lot. Can breath thru my nose now - Jann from facebook group

The ENT specialist said that people who have asthma and nasal polyps are usually salicylate sensitive. We cut salicylates out of my diet and one week later I was able to breath through my nose. - from Geoff, see full story [995]

I have Samter’s Syndrome (consisting of asthma, aspirin sensitivity and nasal polyps) also known as Samter’s Triad or aspirin-induced asthma. For the last 29 years I have been taking medications and trying to stay alive. When I found the Australian salicylate lists I was so excited, I could finally understand what was happening. I was inadvertently eating salicylates every day. – from a US reader, story [994

Sue's comment: There are numerous less-than-accurate salicylate lists on the internet. The only figures we support are the updated lists from RPAH - ask for our salicylate mistakes information sheet: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (reports received 2014)

References: Baenkler H, Salicylate intolerance, 2008 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696737/

I stopped eating potatoes when I read story [1317] about solanine because I had similar symptoms to that guy (who wrote about " ... very irritable and highly sensitive - not of the pleasant type - symptoms in my penis and testicles and surrounding areas. At times it was painful and made me feel like I did not have full bladder control. Urinating was uncomfortable, not unlike when you have a bladder infection ".)

In my case there was no pain, just a constant wrong signal - it was kind of like "there's fluid in your urethra and you need to hold it in/pee/do something" - not easily defined. Super annoying though. It was worst right after urinating. Fluid intake didn't seem to affect it, there was no burning sensation during urination or anything like that. When the symptoms were at their worst I had a bit of bladder leakage (like a few drops). Only once or twice though.

After three weeks of avoiding potatoes my symptoms were still continuing so that wasn't it.

Then I tried going strictly failsafe again for a few weeks. I didn't realise how much I had slipped up - turns out I've been eating a lot more amines than I realised. I also took a small amount of soda bicarb - half a tsp in a glass of water.  Both of these strategies were extremely effective! My symptoms are gone, and I feel much happier. :) - by email (male, late 20s)


I could not resist sharing these photos of my little girl about 2.5yo pre-diet. On the left is the face we saw most days, all day. On the right is her now, the new girl. She has just started school and her teachers have said how great her behaviour is in class. So, for those just starting this journey of discovery, keep up the good work, be patient and good results will come.

The Pre-diet girl showed signs and symptoms very similar to severe ODD, ADHD, with anger, over emotional, anxiety, inability to concentrate on a task, several tantrums a day with each lasting anywhere up to 45 mins, self harm , irritability, aggression, frustration, laughing when inappropriate, waking screaming and going to bed screaming, very frequent wees (incontinence), aching limbs at night, blocked nose/sinus, itchy skin (no rash) sleep disturbance, lacking energy, sensitivity to touch, sounds, smells (Sensory Processing Disorder). We changed her diet just prior to her 3rd birthday and within two weeks we saw a completely different child. Even her little face changed. She became a calm, normal, loving, happy, intelligent, creative child. Her behaviour changed to what we would call normal 3 yr old. The odd tantrum, but not lasting long. The other issues she was also dealing with, just about disappeared or were greatly reduced ie sensitivity to sound/touch, aching limbs at night, incontinence, making toilet training possible. If they returned, we knew that we had gone over the salicylates threshold. We stick to a diet with her of low/mod sals. Knowing her diet, we can sneak in the odd strawberry or other higher sals foods here and there. No preservatives, additives, msg, artificial colours for her where at all possible. She is my third child, first child from second marriage. My other two children have no issues like this. Oldest has lactose intolerance. Youngest from second marriage has lactose intolerance too. Having ulcerative colitis now at 44, I realise that I had my own food sensitivities as a child and continue as an adult. I admit though, that we have not done strict challenges - Jan on facebook

I was on anti depression medication for 7 years - once on fs & eliminating sals I found my fog lifted & I'm no longer dependant on tablets. While my overall diet was a healthful one by anyones standard the sals were in fact detrimental to me. Food is in fact my medicine - as long as I stay in the low list a hard learning curve at age 50 when my husband and children can enjoy everything - Jennifer

Cuddling on the sofa with a non-fidgeting child!! I thought this would never happen!!  - Beth

That was the first thing that happened for us, my son lay in bed with us in the morning for about 20 mins and didn't move, for the first time ever...amazing! Enjoy x -Cath

My 7yo son headbangs and headbutts with annatto.  Actually he generally becomes a right little monster with it.  I avoid it like the plague.  I sometimes will allow other additives in small amounts if I absolutely have to, but I will not allow annatto under any circumstances after the last episode with it.

When did he first start head banging? He never was a child that had particularly bad behaviour.  I only took all the additives to see what would happen, and now that he is additive free, I get exceptionally bad behavioural spikes with additives.  Some additives he can tolerate small amounts of, and some there is now pretty much a zero tolerance level, eg sodium benzoate in medicines.  He didn't really head bang as an ongoing thing, but on occasion in the middle of a tantrum or when he was particularly frustrated he would do it at the age of about 2 or 3.  He also appears to be gifted, I am thinking of having him assessed.  It had stopped until I saw the annatto effects in January.

Which products (e.g.  yoghurt, ice cream) have you noticed are a problem?  I have only seen a reaction that I am absolutely sure was due to annatto involving headbanging once, and that product was Magnum Minis.  As soon as I attended your talk last year, I stopped my kids having additives, especially colours, immediately.  I did give him ice cream once that had annatto, and we had some issues at school on the Monday, but he had also had artificial colours, preservatives and flavour enhancers that weekend (we were away and I thought it would be ok for the weekend, discovered I was wrong!) so I can't be sure that he did react to the annatto then.  There was no head banging after that weekend, but he did punch someone.  That appears to be a reaction in him to flavour enhancers and preservatives as a general rule though.

How did you first realise that annatto was causing the problem?  He has been additive free since July 2010, and this reaction happened in January 2011.  He had had no other additives other than the annatto.  He has not had annatto since, and the behaviour has not repeated.

Why do you say that “I will not allow annatto under any circumstances after the last episode”?  My aunt gave both my kids a Magnum Mini after lunch, just the plain chocolate and ice cream one, which I had not given them since starting additive free.  My son was ratty and annoying that afternoon, but I put that down to being tired, as we had had an early start flying from Sydney to Adelaide.  That night she allowed them another one after dinner.  The next day, I was at the supermarket, and my son and daughter had a disagreement about something, and he just lost it and headbutted her, followed by headbutting the shelves and the floor of the supermarket, and proceeded to follow me around the shop screaming at me, and headbutting several shelves along the way.  No amount of talking or threatening of punishment had any effect.  I told him that I was leaving and walked out of the shop, and about 5 minutes later he came screaming out looking for me because he realised he had no idea where he was, and he headbutted my leg.  I physically restrained him in his car seat and waited 10 minutes for him to stop thrashing and screaming.  He was generally painful for the next 24 hours.  He had not behaved like that since he was 2.  I knew there was annatto in the magnums, but I thought a small amount would be OK, which clearly it wasn't.  I bought chocolate coated ice creams which didn't contain the annatto, and there were no further issues.  He has not had annatto since, and we have not seen any behaviour like this again.  He really hurt his sister, she had a bruise for a week.  He had never ever headbutted another child in his life before then, and his sister is half his size.  I'm not willing to risk that again, so I check everything that could possibly contain annatto before he has it, yoghurt, cheese, ice cream, margarine etc.

Any further observations? Flavour enhancers make him aggressive.  Preservatives appear to remove his impulse control.  Artificial colours make him hyperactive and aggressive.  But none of them make him behave the way he did after the annatto.  After that episode, I would rather give him any other additive than annatto.  I can usually overcome issues that the other additives cause, but not the annatto.

I only did the diet to see what would happen.  He wasn't a particularly badly behaved child, he was challenging, but he could be gifted, so challenge is part of that.  Now that I have stopped the additives, I can see the sorts of problems that other people have, because he appears to be rather sensitive to them now.  He is a more calm and reasonable child, and is certainly better behaved than most kids I know.  His behaviour didn't stand out compared to the other kids before, but it certainly does now, he is much better than other children, and I can see the effects of the additives in other kids now that I didn't see before.

Another interesting thing I noticed when I stopped the additives is that he lost over 2kg in weight in about 6 months.  He was a small, skinny child to start with (he was 19kg when I started the diet, dropped to 16.7kg, and now is 19.4kg), and the weight just fell off him.  It took him a further 6 months to catch it back up, and he eats like a horse, and has done since I stopped the additives.

Thank you for everything you do, you are amazing - Alice (report received December 2011)

My son was about two and a half at the time, when I noticed his extreme reaction to eating 160b.  We used to use margarine and eat Streets vanilla icecream (I thought by choosing vanilla flavoured products I was avoiding the colours and potential nasties).  When he ate these products he would punch himself repeatedly in the head with a closed fist and also bang his head against the wall.  Obviously as a parent, this behaviour caused me great concern, only to be reassured by people that it is just a phase and he will grow out of it.  This was the start of my journey exploring food additives and the effects they have on behaviour and children.  After buying a book and reading up I decided to cut out products with annatto, and made the switch to Peter's Vanilla Icecream and back to real butter.  Within a very short time this headbanging behaviour ceased.  No parent should have to watch their child physically hurt themselves as a result of what they eat!
As you say, if you notice one reaction to food there will be more.  Every time we used to go to Pancake Parlour and have the two stack pancakes with icecream he would have stomach cramps and diarrhoea that day.  We have visited doctors on several occasions regarding stomach cramps and recurrent diarrhoea.  They wanted him to have blood tests but I was reluctant as he was still young. 

Other difficult behaviours have remained with our son.  He falls in the upper range of normal behaviour, borderline ADHD, shows some autism symptoms and we are off to a Child Psychologist tomorrow for his anger which is escalating into rage.  After buying your books and DVD at the talk and chatting with you I feel empowered to start the RPAH diet.  I've had one appointment with a recommended dietitian  and on Monday our family will start on the RPAH diet.  If he can stop making the silly whoop whoop noises and been argumentative, restless and confrontational then this will be well and truly worth it (and I'm a little excited to see just how I react to certain foods!  My husband not so much!)
Thank you so much for the time and energy that you and Howard put in to educating the general public about food additives.  You are making a huge difference to so many families! - Sarah (report received December 2011)

I have a 5yr old daughter who is intolerant to natural foods. She becomes violent when she eats carrot and it can last for a few weeks on and off. She also cannot tolerate most fruits and unlike the violence from the carrot she acts drunk when she has fruit. We now limit her vegies, only give her bakers delight breads as we found she reacted to the vinegar from the supermarket breads and we have her on failsafe butter too.

Since changing her foods we have a happy child who is now more relaxed, we can now speak to her without her going off. She is calmer and much nicer child.

We have noticed that when we feed her something with salicylates she also sleepwalks very badly. Another thing, before we changed her diet she had ear infection after ear infection. I had her to an ear specialist who thought she needed an op but now looking back since changing her diet she only has an infection as often as a normal child - Mel (report received August 2011)

See factsheet on sleep and story collection on sleep issues

I have had my 5 year old, diagnosed with ADHD a couple of months ago, on the failsafe diet now for 2.5 weeks and have found that his tantrums that had been occurring between 12.30 and 13.30 at school (not all days but a lot) which had involved kicking the teacher and often spitting and having to be carried to the office have stopped.  I believe that 160b in Vaalia yoghurt every day, two or three serves, has largely been the issue. He is now sitting and reading his reader in one go which for us is a MAJOR change. We have eliminated all additives, colours, and only have low salicylate and no amines or nitrates, We still have dairy and wheat. We were having. He gets hot red ears at times which are sensitive to touch - I have read that this is a sign of food intolerance? - Rhonda (report received September 2011)

(Comment from Sue:  Red ears: Yes, they are a sign of food intolerance and like any other symptom, can be associated with any of the usual culprits although I have to say in my experience, dairy foods would definitely be a suspect.

Many families are extremely reluctant to give up dairy foods, and would rather do almost anything else. The golden rule of food intolerance is: whatever you most like is most likely to affect you.  I often recommend to families who are unable to give up dairy foods that they switch to A2 milk first, as a stepping stone (this means A2 milk, A2 yoghurt, Nuttelex margarine and dairy free ice cream, e.g. So Good Vanilla soy bliss). For some people this is enough. Most (if behaviour is involved) need to go further and find it easier to switch to oatmilk, soymilk or ricemilk from A2 than A1.  Note that A2 yoghurt is not failsafe - too many amines - but you can get rid of the amines by turning it into Quark overnight (see Quark in our recipe list)).

I have listed the effects on my boys 2 and 4 years plus other results if you are interested.  We started the elimination diet 6 months ago and I can safely say that the challenges were one of the hardest things we have ever done - if I was in paid employment I would have been on stress leave! 

Fortunately we have all survived (including the marriage) and have come out the other end in a much better place.   Why did we start - my eldest was having major problems at kindy - his behavior at home has always been challenging but escalated in a group environment.  A few labels were mentioned ADHD, PDD, SPD - but he didn't really seem to fit fully into any of those categories.  My other concern was we were going to have the same problems with our youngest when he went to kindy - as he is a " mini me" to his big brother. I took my eldest to a place called Learning Connections (in Brisbane) and they suggested diet.  We worked with a dietician at Mooloolaba and these are the boys’ reactions below. 

Interestingly we were doing daily homework that the OT had set - handwriting and jumping jacks while we were doing the challenges (same exercises everyday), some days he couldn't even hold a pencil and others he was too clumsy to complete a jumping jack successfully.  My youngest no longer has asthma like symptoms and only one case of tonsillitis this year, both only 1 cold this year that lasted 1 day - last year a cold would last minimum 2 weeks, and both had 3 cases of tonsillitis. Both have allergic reactions to a number of antibiotics - penicillin, erythromycin and cephalexin so maybe they are extra sensitive or maybe their reactions have escalated the problem? 

160b annatto: 2 yo - sore legs; 4 yo - sleep disturbances (I had to lie on him to get him to lie still to fall asleep, then he was up 4 times during the night with nightmares)  Both - hyperactive, restless, wet pants, screaming, angry, arguing.  This was within 2 hours of eating yoghurt, fortunately my husband was home when they reacted as we had to separate them for their own safety and we just exercised them for two hours straight then gave them a bicarb bath.  Lasted 24 hours.  Wednesdays for some reason were always 4yr olds worse day at kindy - it was litterless day - he couldn’t have any packaging in his lunchbox so I used to scoop out some of his dad’s yoghurt into a container :). Both boys used to be really "restless" at bedtime even when I knew they were tired.  They used to have custard for dessert.

Salicylates: 2 yo - dirty pants, whingy, hurt the dogs; 4 yo - long time to complete tasks, no eye contact. Both - touching, poking, prodding, breaking, arguing, impulsive, noises, loud.

Amines: 2 yo - wet and dirty pants emotional, defiant, hypo, screaming loud. 4 yo - space cadet/not listening and not responding.

282 propionates: crazy, consistently getting in trouble, emotional (2 yo more than 4 yo).

Soy milk: 2 yo diarrhea

Wheat: minor in 2 yo; major reaction in 4 yo, said he felt tingly, had the worse day at kindy ever - hurting other children, couldn't sit still very busy but very tired also, poor coordination, soiled pants, stomach pains.  

Life has definitely changed for the better for us - we still aren't there yet but we have come a long way.  I recorded one of my youngest outbursts on my phone and play it back when I forget why we are now so strict with their food - believe me a scary recording.  My eldest no longer needs the special education teacher aide to follow him around at kindy making sure he can survive the day but is now making friends and loving his kindy day.  He still has some neurological delays but is catching up really quickly. Thank you so much - if I hadn't been pushed to evaluate their diet (which I thought was healthy) I would not have read your book and my son would have a label :(. - Lisa (report received August 2011)

My 3yr old son Jack is salicylate and benzoate intolerant. I began this journey after googling head banging and your website appeared with a wealth of information on  annatto160b. I eliminated everything we were consuming Kraft cheese, yoghurt, ice-cream etc and noticed a drastic improvement. My toddler no longer banged his head on the floor or the walls.
After doing a supervised elimination diet, we spent the greater part of last year learning about failsafe eating and adapting our lifestyle accordingly. We went through the stage of convincing pre-school and family members that salicylate intolerance really does exist and after providing them with fact sheets from your web site they are more understanding.
Jack has learnt his "happy" and "cranky" foods and even asks if certain foods have salicylate or colours in them. A great learning tool was the weekly grocery shopping.The fruit and veg department became our classroom as we would talk about salicylate and foods that make us feel happy or cranky. The curiosity of a then 2yr old is amazing.
Benzoate was our hidden problem though. It was not until severe reactions to phenergan and valium that we joined the dots. Jack required a CT brain scan so sedatives were prescribed. After giving Jack valium, 6hrs later and we were still driving around with a 2yr old singing Playschool songs in short hand and stating I feel funny.  Finally he fell asleep - yes that lasted for all of 15mins, we got the scan done and he was still bouncing off the walls at 11pm that night!
I have since learnt that poor Jack has been reacting his whole life. Baby panadol, bonjela, infacol - yes all salicylate and or benzoate as ingredients!  In reality we have been making things worse for Jack by giving him over the counter medications that people use everyday in an attempt to ease pain.
Since managing most of the food issues we are now noticing reactions to chlorine, air freshners ( at Nan's ) and perfume (visiting aunts).  A weekend visit to relatives has become a minefield of scents and hidden benzoates.
Like others I have read about we too notice a difference in behaviour after weekly swimming lessons in a chlorinated pool.  After many attempts we have finally got Jack to wear goggles, but he seems to compulsively lick or drink the pool water ( I am assuming he is getting some kind of fix from it). The level of aggression following lessons is what led us to draw the link. 
It is a constant battle with one so young who cannot fully verbalise what he is feeling, he just reacts with kicking, hitting, head butting, talking gibberish and constantly rubbing his nose and playing with his tongue. Jack's reactions last 8 days and at the end of the reaction he gets very upset and clingy. 
Dealing with food intolerance can be very isolating. When you hear comments that your child is a "horrid vicious child", as I have had said to me, it is upsetting. Or being told it would be good if you came to the birthday party late so we can have all the GOOD FOOD (junk full of colours and preservatives) before you arrive.
Perseverance does pay though and family and friends are noticing the difference. My parents can now distinguish between toddler behaviour and a chemical reaction. I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU for all the time and effort you put in to providing us novices with such a wonderful resource.There seems to be an endless amount of information we need to process in order to protect our children and your web site and cook books have been of tremendous assistance. Your efforts keep us sane!
UPDATE 3 years later: to re read our story (above) made me cry. I had forgotten just how far we have travelled on this journey to a new way of living. We still have our good and bad times, but  food is under control, it's just inhaled salicylate/benzoates that cause us the most grief.
Jack is now 6yrs old and in year 1 at school. I spent a considerable amount of time educating the principal and his teacher last year on food intolerance and fortunately they were open to being educated!  The Principal even made note of a new student having chemical intolerance in the school newsletter, and requested parents be aware that wearing fragrance in the classroom would have an adverse effect on one of the students.
As we all know this doesn't guarantee people will abide by the request, but after years of slogging away, to have the Principal accept the literature we provided him & be willing to assist, was a relief. He did liken food /chemical intolerance to when nut allergy firstly came about. He remembers a lot of scepticism re nut allergy & was willing to accept that food intolerance was a real issue for Jack; the greater community just wasn't aware of it.
The school toilets with the automatic air fresheners are our biggest problem at school. Again though the Principal arranged for Jack to use a toilet in the administration block that did not have an air freshener. This worked for most of kindergarten, but kids being kids the teasing about being different has kicked in, so now Jack is unwilling to go to the administration block for bathroom breaks (which is understandable).
Most of the kids in his class are fine about Jack having his own treats for special occasion days at school, but there are always 1 or 2 kids who like to remind him his food is different (yes, tastier/healthier and home made!). I take cup cakes to school at the start of each term for class birthdays and leave them in the freezer. The lady who runs the school canteen has been lovely, and lets me take homemade pizza or chicken nuggets in and she heats them up, so Jack can have a lunch order just like the other kids. 
On reflection we have been blessed with the staff we have encountered at school. I have gotten quiet good at smuggling my homemade chicken nuggets and French fries into McDonalds birthday parties. I did approach them about re-heating nuggets for me, but food safety standards wont allow them to. Now I heat them just before I leave and travel with a heated medipack in an insulated lunch bag.  Then there is another one with an ice brick in it for the homemade ice cream cake!
As I said food is the easy part. Shopping centres, toilets, theatres and  hotels are still places we try and not frequent too often. Even going to the Doctors is an issue, with other patients in the waiting room wearing fragrance, the hand sanitisers and air fresheners.
We love our Rainbow Air and are no longer scared about staying in hotels. Though I still do spend a lot of time researching establishments that we can access without going through lobbies/foyers and elevators. Caravan parks with cabins or your old fashioned single story motels are safest.
Again Sue, I want to thank you for your tireless efforts in guiding us and reminding us we are not alone. To be honest the bad days can be really bad when trying to calm a child high on chemical overload. It is exhausting. To know others in this forum understand and are experiencing similar is comforting. Those in my circle of friends try and understand, but until you see an outburst first hand, you can't fully understand. -  Nicole by email

See more: http://fedup.com.au/information/frequently-asked-questions/perfume-and-chemical-sensitivity-questions#rainbow


Just had another clash with so-called 'safe' medications. I asked the pharmacist to send me a cough suppressant, and discussed with her (again) my chemical/food reactivity. She sent me Duro-Tuss Forte, which, trusting soul that I am, I began to use. That night the coughing got worse and worse, to the point of being on the brink of vomiting. Next day, coughing was a little less racking and throat-scouring. Then, last night Printzmetal's Angina woke me - really bad pain, and the trigger for me is salicylates! ... Now, I thought the chemist had checked the ingredients. It turns out that she did not know anything about 'sunset yellow' colouring  (artificial colour 110) ..."-  Jennifer by email

Sue's comment: Most pharmacists do not fully understand food/chemical sensitivity. As well as  saying you want to avoid salicylates, it is important to spell out everything you don't want in your medication. See the list of 50 additives to avoid here http://fedup.com.au/images/stories/nastyadditive%20page.pdf .  It is appalling that lax TGA regulations mean artificial colours do not have to be listed on pharmaceutical labels. Wondering how this could possibly happen? The industry puts profits ahead of patient safety and regulators who were originally supposed to protect patient safety are subject to so-called regulatory capture in which people who work for regulators receive "incentives", toe the company line, or are afraid for their jobs, see Gotzsche blog

I am 75 and have taken paracetamol on occasions for many years and more recently due to a spine problem was on the maximum dose for around five months plus morphine and others. No reaction problems. However a couple of weeks ago I obtained my paracetamol from different local chemist. I took two tablets and felt a bit strange, I mentioned this to my wife jokingly that I must be allergic to paracetamol now, I have problems with most drugs but not anaphylactic. I then took another two tablets 24 hours later and immediately went into quite a severe reaction. Normally I can clear it with about a litre of water and a couple of hours. This however kept on coming back for about eight hours even taking an antihistamine. I could not understand why this had occurred.

Next day I looked at the non active ingredients. The  two makes were the same but the new batch contained E202. The tablets I reacted to were manufactured by M & A Pharmachem Ltd. Bolton. I emailed all three companies and got replies from the two that I normally use but nothing from the company I had the problem with I even followed up with a phone call.

Preservative E202 preservative is also in most fruit drinks and pops. Don't know why I have suddenly been affected by it, but since the episode with the tablets, drinks that I have always had are now affecting me but to a lesser degree - Bryan, UK


My Solanine story goes for 2 years and involves visits to a urologist and even a quick look up the old fella with a camera...day surgery of course, not a handy cam!!

Other than digestive issues  I found that I experienced very irritable and highly sensitive (not of the pleasant type) symptoms in my penis and testicles and surrounding areas. At times it was painful and made me feel like I did not have full bladder control. Urinating was uncomfortable, not unlike when you have a bladder infection. It had a negative effect on the bedroom activities too. Not pleasant.

My research taught me thatback in Shakespeare's day they used solanine if they wanted to bump someone off. The levels of solanine are dependent upon whether the plant had late blight, the level of green coloured flesh, how roughly it was treated from harvesting to cooking. Even dropping and bumping down a conveyor belt sets off a reaction in the potato causing an increase in solanine. Deep frying is supposed to reduce the levels of solanine. I cannot confirm this as we do not eat fried food. Rubbing the shoots of a potato is not good. Once they get to this stage the solanine is increasing.

I remember as a kid and even a teenager having these same issues. Mum grew her own potatoes and would frequently rub off the shoots, so this was bad news for me.

Happily, simply not eating potatoes did the trick. If I have a few crunchy chips, I can notice the sensitive symptoms coming back within hours. - by email, Tasmania

Sue's comment: Never eat potatoes that are green beneath the skin or taste bitter and unpleasant. Never eat the sprouts of potatoes.Some people are obviously more sensitive to solanine than others. There may be another possible explanation: to be failsafe (low in salicylates), potatoes must be large, old, white-fleshed and brown or pale skinned -  not red or other colours - and thickly peeled. Even potatoes with cream-coloured rather than white flesh are moderate in salicylates and if eaten regularly or in large amounts can contribute to an overdose of salicylates in sensitive failsafers. More information: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2010/04/28/2884467.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solanine

I was one of the mums who put their hand up for having a head-banging child. Our son is nearly 6 now (Aug 2011). When he was about 1 year old, he started head banging. It appeared to be out of frustration or anger. I considered it to be part of, or a type of tantrum. It was alarming for me, but over time I discovered that there was very little I could do to stop it, except try to side-track his tantrum. He would lie on the floor on his tummy and bang his forehead on the floor. Sometimes, if he was sitting, he would bend down and hit his forehead on the floor. When he started walking at about 15 months he continued the head banging. He would do it in his cot, in bed and during the day. Sometimes, he would even bang his head on the floor from a standing position. He would just bend down from the waist and bang his forehead on whatever surface was in front of him. He now carries a permanent faint scar or thickened spot on his forehead from the years of head banging.

I think it stopped when he was about three and a half. He had started preschool and I was very concerned about this behaviour. But, as is usually the case, my concerns were not realised at preschool, as he seemed to grow out of it.

I had not linked food and this behaviour until my sister mentioned it to me. He had stopped the head banging before I was able to do any intolerence testing to highlight any potential food causes.

He is now a very active kindergarten boy, who loves school and enjoys all he does. For me, he is still a handful as he is a sensory seeker. He spends a lot of his time stomping on our (very loud) timber floors and stairs, crashing into walls deliberately and launching himself at a run into the lounges and beds. He frequently hits the lounges so hard, he hurts his head on the timber frame beneath the cushioning! We have a very expensive, pre-kids, well-padded lounge. It is very hard to feel the frame in this one. He also loves to launch himself at a run at his dad and I and doesn't stop. He calls this cuddles. At 25kgs, this is tough on us. He is always hitting and touching his 7y9m old Apsy brother, causing frequent flair ups. He loves wrestles, sausage rolls (OT exercise to wrap him in a quilt and roll a fitball over him), squeezy hugs and tickles. Oh, and leaping off things, like the lounge, his bed, the third last step, off our garden retaining walls etc. All this is a pretty constant waking activity for him. Thankfully he is able to settle and concentrate in class. Plus OT exercises help!

I have been procrastinating over the RPA elim diet for him, due to (my) health reasons. After your talk, I'm again very motivated to get into it. As well as wanting to improve his behaviour which includes occasional ODD type patterns and physical health, his Aspy brother needs to do it and I know I have many issues related to food. My GP is finally coming on board and I have great confidence in my Failsafe aware dietitian.

I hope this information is of use to you, although I have no evidence of a link between the food and head banging. I am eager to see if there is a link to food and sensory seeking now! - Tracey (report received August 2011)

Update nearly 4 years later:  I wonder at the coincidence of hearing from you now, and the fact that only yesterday, before seeing your email, I pulled out the elimination diet handbook with a view to finally get into it for myself and my two sons. My then 6yo son, now 9y3m, has been struggling with learning at school. His inability to remain focused and on task in almost every area of his life is seeing him start to fall behind his peers. We have been attending counselling to assist him in learning to accept and recognise his behaviours and the consequences. We are also currently undergoing psychological testing with a view to possible ADHD diagnosis. 2 weeks ago, we started the Move to Learn programme at home as he still displays signs of not crossing his midline, difficulty with handedness and vestibular and fine motor skills issues.

I firmly believe that food is a big issue for him, and am embarrassed to admit it's just been too hard to undergo the food testing. But, it needs to be done before any further talk of medicating for ADHD. This might just be big and scary enough to get me motivated - Tracey

I have used one of your recommendations with my 20 month old. I took annatto out of her diet and I don't know if it's a coincidence but I definitely saw an improvement in her tantrums and she no longer hits herself on the head or scratches her face when she has a major meltdown. She is much more manageable when she has a tantrum and she doesn't get as upset or angry and not for as long as she used to a couple of months ago.

The items she was eating almost every single day for nearly 2 months were : Lay's Quavers cheese flavoured potato chips Pepperidge Farm baked cheddar cheese goldfish -only a little handful or so as a treat or in the car/shopping trolley, but still even a little amount adds up! The tantrums and head hitting also started around the same time I started giving her those treats - 19 months. Now she is just a couple of days off 21 months and she still has screaming tantrums, but nowhere near as severe and not with headhitting, scratching her face or full on flailing limbs. Also the amount of tantrums had definitely decreased. Thanks again and keep up the good work! :) - Vicki from UAE (report received September 2011)

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