Fedup Newsletters

 

FAILSAFE #25

 

Newsletter of the Food Intolerance Network of Australia

April-May 2001

 

FAILSAFE supports families using the low-chemical elimination diet recommended by the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital - free of additives, low in salicylates, amines and flavour enhancers - for health, behaviour and learning problems.

Failsafe is now available free by email. Just send your email address to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hello everyone

I'm very glad to be home after nearly seven months on the road. I'm sorry this newsletter has been so delayed. It is the last of the travel newsletters. The next regular newsletter will be out soon. Anyone, who has tried to contact me by phone or email and failed, please try again, we had electronic and overload problems while I was away.

- Sue Dengate

 

 

THIS MONTH

  • School violence: educators should do sums
  • Expel aggressive three-year-olds, UK teachers demand
  • More "Sin Bins" for disruptive UK secondary students
  • US educators hope to stem a rising tide of school violence
  • Low scores in education
  • Profit more important than kids' wellbeing
  • SPECIAL REPORT: LOW CHEMICAL TRAVEL (part 2)
  • recipe: apple muffins

 

 

School violence: educators should do sums

 

School violence increases, educators complain, governments throw money - as we can see in the articles below. Instead, educators would do well to make the following connections:

1) Food additives cause temper outbursts + additive consumption increases = increased violence

 

In my experience, three-year-olds who are expelled from day care centres are ALWAYS food intolerant. And let us not forget Professor Schoenthaler's detention centre recommendation that nearly 50% of antisocial acts could be prevented simply by changing what inmates ate, at no cost to anyone.

2) Food additives cause inattention + additive consumption increases = decreased reading ability

 

When we're talking about learning, remember Professor Schoenthaler's findings in the NY City Schools study - a reduction from 12.5% learning disabled students to 5% when additives were removed from school foods.

Wouldn't it be great if teachers' unions recognised the effects of foods and banned unnecessary additives in school cafeterias? They could really make a difference.

 

Expel aggressive three-year-olds, UK teachers demand

 

Children as young as three could be expelled from nursery schools under a "no tolerance" policy demanded by a UK teachers' union. Delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) annual conference gave overwhelmingly support to a clampdown on unacceptable behaviour. Suzan Gokova, a teacher at Claremont Primary and Nursery School in Nottingham said that growing numbers of young children were expressing their feelings by biting, kicking, scratching and screaming. In her experience, one in ten of three and four-year-olds were now so uncontrollable that they needed one-to-one help outside the classroom. Ms Gokova blamed parents for failing to take responsibility for their children before they started nursery education. Ralph Surman, a member of the ATL's executive, said that schools should be encouraged to report incidents of violence at all ages. One local authority in the East Midlands had recorded 85 incidents during the first three months of this year, with assaults including headbutting, punching, kicking and holding a teacher in a headlock. - The London Times, 12/4/01, p16

 

More "Sin Bins" for disruptive UK secondary students

 

A four million pound ($A12m) plan to expand the number of in-school learning support units - so called sin bins - to take disruptive pupils to be educated out of the classroom was announced by the education secretary, David Blunkett, at the annual conference of the British Secondary Heads Association in March. An extra 50 units are planned, mainly for schools outside urban areas. Mr Blunkett also announced an extension of parenting orders, under which parents who fail to deal with their children's bad behaviour in class or who are themselves abusive on school premises could be sent back to school to take parenting classes. Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of School Masters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Clearly it is important to target parents if they are the root of the problem. But much more needs to be done immediately, such as abolishing appeals panels which are still sending disruptive children who have been excluded back into the classroom by the truck load". In a question and answer session Mr Blunkett said he wished he had been able to do more to raise teacher morale. - The Guardian, London, 24/3/01, p4

 

US educators hope to stem a rising tide of school violence

 

Fifth-grade teacher Deb Foertsch has students who sometimes get off the bus angry. All too often Foertsch says, the anger turns into some kind of violence - getting into a fight with another student or even lashing out at the teacher. The student gets sent to the principal's office and could be suspended, perhaps for the second or third time. It is students who get into situations like that that Foertsch hopes can be helped by an alternative program being proposed by a Champaign Federation of Teachers union committee. "More children are coming to school with more difficulty adjusting to school," union president Laura Keller said. "They have greater difficulty with social skills and anger control at a younger age." The teachers' union got involved after surveying elementary school teachers about violence witnessed at school. Of those surveyed, 61 percent said they thought the level of violence has increased in the last two years. The proposed Champaign district program would have three main components: a behaviour specialist to meet with students, a prevention program during class time for repeat offenders, and an alternative to suspension in which students would work in a separate classroom, in order to get their schoolwork done and receive counselling. Estimated cost: about $US 330,000 ($A660,000). - News Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, 22/4/01, p1

 

Low scores in education

 

Only about one-third of a national sample of fourth-graders were able to read at their grade level or above, the National Assessment of Education Progress reported in March. President Bush has announced plans to increase Education Department funding by 11.5% and warns that major reforms must be implemented "before it's too late". -USA TODAY 19/4/01, p8A

 

Profit more important than kids' wellbeing

 

Italian stores are full of foods labelled "senza coloranti" (without colours). British supermarkets announce policies of reducing additives. Meanwhile Americans kids eat more colours as teachers despair and food industry giants laugh all the way to the bank, see below.

KIDS SALIVATE FOR NEW, YUCKY, WEIRDLY COLOURED FOOD

 

"Gross is good when it comes to food for kids these days. Chips and burger brands are cooking up brightly coloured fare high in the "ick" factor that appeals to kids. In some cases, foods change colours; in others, they turn kids' mouths into yucky hues. Frito-Lay recently rolled out Cheetos laced with colour-activating ingredients. And Burger King is two months into its "choose the ooze" promotion offering colourful condiments for kids' meals.

The company says it is the hottest promotion it has had for years. Why? …

Kids influence about $290 billion worth of household purchases and have direct spending power of about $53 billion, up 52% since 1997." - USA Today 23/4/01 p7B

 

In brief

  • Hollywood 1, FDA 0: It seems that Hollywood knows what the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) does not - that food colours affect people. It was good to see hunky Matthew McConaghy - as Jennifer Lopez' pediatrician love interest in The Wedding Planner - discarding all but the brown candies in a packet of M&M look-alikes while explaining that chocolate is naturally coloured brown so the brown ones are less likely to have anything in them. (He's not necessarily right.)
  • FDA 1, Consumers 0: Despite results of a recent survey which showed that 86% of Americans wanted products containing GM foods to be labelled as such, the FDA has ruled against labelling for GM foods, on the basis that GM foods are not substantially different from their non-GM counterparts.
  • FDA 0, Ben & Jerry's 1: In the USA, Bovine growth hormones are permitted to make cows produce more milk. The side effect of this is more mastitis (udder infections) hence cows must be given continuous antibiotics. This is what Ben & Jerry's - Vermont's finest all natural ice cream - say: "We oppose Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. The family farmers who supply our milk and cream pledge not to treat their cows with rBGH. The FDA has said no significant difference has been shown and no test can now distinguish between milk from rBGH treated and untreated cows. Not all the suppliers of our other ingredients can promise that the milk they use comes from untreated cows."
  • FDA 0, Select Organic Milk Producers 1: From the label: "The dairy cows that produce Safeway Select Organic Milk enjoy a healthy mix of fresh air, plenty of exercise, clean drinking water and a wholesome, 100% organic diet, all contributing to the high quality of their milk. They eat only organic corn and grain grown without pesticides or chemicals. They never receive antibiotics and since healthy, content cows produce milk plentifully, growth hormones are never needed. To be certified organic, dairy cows must be fed organic feeds for at least one year before milking. Their food must be grown on lands free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers for a minimum of three years." Safeway Inc PO Box 99, Pleasanton, CA 94566-0009

 

Diet not working as well as you'd hoped?

 

One tiny mistake can make a huge difference. For fine-tuning, see the updated list on the website Checklist of common mistakes. Also new guidelines for extra sensitive amine responders, thanks to Alison and Karl from the email discussion group.

Readers tell us this list is very useful.

 

Readers' comments

'My wife has read "Fed-up" 100 times already and tried almost every recipe -delicious. Now she has started reading "Different Kids" and it is amazing! It's if we are reading our own diary regarding our son '. - reader, email

 

READERS' DETAILS AND READERS STORIES at www.fedup.com.au

Your questions:

Check out the Questions and Answers section in the website with detailed answers to your questions:

Q. I enjoyed your travel description. But didn't you feel awful going to Italy and not being able to eat pizza?

 

A. No, because we ate Italian pizza, see section on Italy (below).

Q. In your travel report you mentioned your improved gluten tolerance. Since I am gluten intolerant myself, I would be very interested to know whether this has lasted.

 

A. I'm pleased to report continuing gluten tolerance, five months now and counting … I can manage white flour, white bread, rolled oats and pasta but not wholemeal flour or Weetbix. Wheat intolerance runs in my family and the bad news is that Arran has now gone gluten-free following a gastro infection in Egypt from which he never really recovered so he dropped gluten after Italy. He's eating probiotic yoghurt but it isn't the same as buffalo curd. Ho hum, we might have to go back to Nepal. I'll keep you posted.

 

SPECIAL REPORT: LOW CHEMICAL TRAVEL (part 2)

 

The last newsletter reported travels of our family, including Rebecca (18) and Arran (15), in Indonesia, Singapore, Nepal, India, Egypt and Europe, finishing in Siena, Italy. With only a few days left of our European holiday, suggestions that the new Foot &Mouth outbreak in Britain was out of control increased. On the Internet in Venice we watched as Youth Hostels, B&Bs, campgrounds and ALL the walking trails in Scotland - where we had intended to spend two weeks - closed under our astonished eyes. We cancelled most of our trip in the UK and stayed the extra time in Europe.

 

ITALY (continued from last newsletter)

 

Italy, especially Tuscany and the Cinque Terre walk, was among the top three highlights of our world trip for all of us. In Tuscany we stayed with a friend in a farmhouse and enjoyed real Tuscan cooking, mostly failsafe for us. Rebecca commented that she finally understood what real, fresh food is all about. We ate eggs straight from the henhouse, vegetables from the garden, hand-made pasta, home-made Tuscan bean soup, and our favourite - a round sheep's cheese called pecorino, white and seemingly failsafe, which we collected from the shop the same day it arrived and ate on the beautiful Tuscan bread, no preservatives there.

One reader asked "Didn't you feel awful going to Italy and not being able to eat pizza?" Italian pizzas are very different from those in Australia. They have much milder toppings and do not necessarily have tomato on them, especially not a highly concentrated tomato paste. We were there in winter, and as toppings are fresh and depend on what is in season (not a lot) mostly our pizzas were cheese, sometimes with pickled artichokes or a smear of mild stewed tomato and once pesto. There was even a gluten free pizza made from chickpea flour. Often there were several types of cheese, much milder than Australian. The mozzarella was white and I would say completely failsafe, compared to ours, which is moderate. There was a whole range of fresh, white and probably failsafe cheeses that we have not encountered here. We also ate gelati (Italian all natural low fat fruit or nut flavoured icecream, my favourite was hazelnut, everyone else went for chocolate and strawberry). Italian food is naturally very high in salicylates and amines. We did have to be careful and at least twice during our three weeks there we crossed our threshold, following up with some totally failsafe days, but we still had an excellent time.

 

AUSTRIA

 

After a scenic stay in Venice and some snowy hikes in the Italian Dolomites, we crossed the border into Austria. Home of the famous Sacher Torte (rather like a chocolate sponge cake covered in chocolate, but flatter, not as sweet and much better presented than we would do it), Austria was also excellent for other continental cakes. I generally chose the baked cheesecake, Arran a plain sponge with fruit topping and the others went for the chocolate tortes. Arran's account of Vienna: "We also visited the Museum of Something. They have a museum of everything here...The history of tobacco, lacemaking through the ages, anything. Anyway, the one we saw was about paintings. We had some cakes (Austria being legendary for its cakes and coffee) and then saw the paintings... I was impressed by the decor - it beat the Vatican and that lot, in fact. Not as big, but more tasteful... It went downhill with the paintings, but the rest of the visit was great." Another highlight of Austria was the salt mine tour near Salzburg (literally, salt mountain) which emphasised the importance of salt as a preservative. It was this factor which enabled the Salzburg fortress to survive a long siege during the middle ages without running out of food.

 

GERMANY

 

Back into Germany and the wonderful German bakeries. It felt like total freedom to order anything we wanted without having to worry about additives. We visited Freiberg in the heart of the Black Forest. Here McDonalds have actually placed their establishment inside the tower of the medieval city gates. This outlet wins my prize for the most in-your-face example of American cultural imperialism. The locals are furious. After a 3.5 kilometre cable car ride to the top of a mountain we ate Black Forest cake - what else? - before setting off in the lightly falling snow for a five hour walk through pine forest back to our camp. Arran wrote: "Probably the oddest walk I've done, and the views were great... All downhill, too. Six days in Europe left, then to England. It'll be nice to get back to an English speaking country, and no mistake."

 

BRITAIN

 

Arran's impressions of London: "The weather is cold and stormy … we went to Greenwich, where GMT starts. It was pretty good, despite the rain … The underground's falling apart. A lot of slowdowns, broken tracks, even a track fire … We went to Kew gardens on Sunday. Since it was sunny (probably the first time here since 1995), and this sun fell on a weekend, thousands of people decided to go. We had to queue for everything from the entrance to the toilets. Please don't make a pun. You've no idea how many times I heard that one today (What, Queue Gardens?) Inside, it was good - 300 acres of trees, grass, and strange birds. We spent most of the day walking round with the parents saying things like "My word, a Japanese maple!" … We took the ferry back. There's a lot of flooding. People cycling in two inches of water, someone launching a boat from a suburban street... It made the journey back more interesting, that's for sure. With the raised river level, we cleared the lowest bridge by only two inches …We went to Buckingham Palace. The guards look pretty weird, let me tell you ...Anyway, there was a wishing well thing and someone had chucked in a credit card. LOL? We nearly ROTFLed! … London's starting to feel almost like home. You wouldn't believe the British accents - they sound right out of the movies. It's oddly nice to listen to. Place names are still strange, though. When I first saw the digital display on the train say "This train is for COCKFOSTERS" I thought it had been hacked into or something..."

Foot and Mouth dominated the countryside and the news. On our one trip out of London we were told we could walk only on busy roads. Newspapers were full of little else. Head of forestry, David Cox, blaming farmers and farm subsidies for the swine fever, BSE and F&M progression, suggested "the farmers have ruined our countryside - now we have a chance to take it back". A timely book by well-known broadcaster John Humphreys reflects the cynicism sweeping Britain. Called "The Great Food Gamble", it explains exactly what agriculture is for: swelling the profits of major corporations in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries; spicing fresh foods with an assortment of pesticide residues; helping breed new races of superbugs through profligate use of antibiotics; and increasing demands on the health service by creating a near epidemic of degenerative conditions. It doesn't even produce cheap food, it produces devalued food.

 

ADDITIVES IN BRITAIN

 

I had expected additive use in Britain to be the same as Australia, but no. Although much worse than Europe, and definitely not good enough, it is nevertheless much better than Australia. Yet again I felt betrayed by ANZFA. We are told repeatedly that food additives are necessary. If they're so necessary, how can other countries do without them? Some of my favourite souvenirs from England: a supermarket carrybag from Iceland which proudly proclaims in large letters "We have BANNED artificial colours and flavours"; from Sainsbury's, the Coles equivalent, a Blue Parrot Café brand label (the brand is committed to "restricted colours and/or preservatives, only natural flavours, no flavour enhancers", although many products are unfortunately very high in salicylates) which proclaims "Sainsbury's policy of reducing additives is welcomed by the Hyperactive Children's Support Group". Well done, HACSG! Sainsbury's also have available, in some outlets at least, more organic food than I've seen in Australia. I saw frozen organic preservative-free sausages, and we regularly ate Sainsbury's plain (no stuffing, no flavouring) rotisseried chicken. Bottles of Fanta in the UK contain failsafe betacarotene colouring (160a), instead of harmful orange colour, sunset yellow (110) used in Australia. Likewise, Magnum icecreams are coloured with beta-carotene instead of the harmful annatto (160b) used in Australia. The ugliest of all additives - bread preservative - isn't established yet. About 75% of the loaves in Sainsbury's were preservative-free, although a corner shop opposite Kew Gardens had no preservative-free bread, except Indian Naan. While in London I gave a talk to HACSG. Excellent on additives, they are not so strong on salicylates - which makes for a less effective diet in our experience.

 

USA

 

We flew into New York (Arran: "a bunch of dark skyscrapers huddled together on the horizon, very dramatic looking"), hired a car and headed north on the first of three loops which would take us through 5,000 miles, 2 countries, 16 states, 7 national parks and about 40 supermarkets. Everything is bigger in the USA - skyscrapers, cars, parking lots, kid's behaviour problems (I saw - in a lift - the most hyperactive kid I have ever seen, and that's saying something; also the biggest 2-yo tantrum), trees, canyons, waterfalls and hospitality. In New Hampshire I gave a very successful talk hosted by the local PTA. More than 100 people attended, one child improved dramatically within 24 hours (by avoiding the bread preservative) and others have contacted me later to say "I did what you said and my son is a different child". Trip highlights: Kev and Pat Little's wonderful hospitality and failsafe cooking in New Hampshire (Pat is our USA network contact); Statue of Liberty, Trump Towers; New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont scenery; Boston museum of science; Niagara Falls; University of Illinois virtual reality site; the Painted Desert and Navajo country, Colorado; giant Redwoods; camping and hiking in national parks, especially Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon and Yosemite; and American libraries - all with free internet access, cheap books for sale, and superb facilities.

 

THE SCENERY

 

Arran (re Colorado, Arizona and Utah): "We've seen some amazing scenery - I can now say, with some authority, that this area of America holds some of The Best Views In The World. It's odd stuff - has to be seen to be believed, really … We went walking into the Grand Canyon, which is much bigger than I'd thought, just for a day trip. We even dumped all of our warm clothes - it's quite hot in the GC. Who needs warm clothes, anyway - it's a desert, right? The weather helped us get down there - during the hottest parts, a convenient cloud cover would pass over. We reached Indian Gardens, the small oasis style jungle, feeling we were blessed. The bottom of the canyon's actually quite nice - I always thought it was really barren, but there are flowering cacti and good trees near the streams, too. The journey back up was tiring, but the views spectacular. Only as we approached the top did we feel apprehension, for the storm overhead darkened with every minute lost. (Do I sound like Lord of the Rings here?) We traveled on, for we had neither raincoats nor jumpers, and nowhere could we stay but the top (maybe Yoda?). As we approached the top, tired and hungry, a cold wind blew, and... bugger it... it started to snow. Snow!! To make a long story short, we staggered back to the car (in T-shirts) and drove to our campsite. A true Dengate saga. I'm thinking about making a book about this. I could call it "Indiana Dengate and the Last Holiday". Or "The Dengate Holiday: A Comedy of Errors"."

 

FOOD IN THE USA - THE BEST

 

Maine lobster, Ben and Jerry's triple caramel chunk icecream (the fudge is not failsafe, but good enough for a treat), Wild Oats natural vanilla crème sandwich cookies, Stoneyfarm (I think) organic yoghurt with six different types of probiotic bacteria, natural maple candy, San Francisco sourdough bread, and Magnum icecreams - with no added colours at all (which means Australia's Magnums are the only Magnums in the world containing a harmful additive) There are some excellent foods in the USA if you know where to find them. But for ordinary people we saw in average supermarkets all over the country then the choices are appalling.

 

… AND THE REST

 

Here is a country in denial about food additives. How can the people who put man on the moon be so ignorant about the effects of what they feed their kids? Artificial colours are used like water even in some so-called healthy foods like bagels, yoghurt and especially in breakfast cereals. One example: Froot Loops which contain all natural colours in Australia (but not failsafe, one is annatto) are full of artificial colours in the USA, more like a bucket of paint than a cereal. BHT, banned except for three products in Australia, is in nearly everything, including weaning food for babies - I nearly cried at that, those poor children. It is very, very difficult to buy real, untampered-with food in the average supermarket. As a former food technologist, Howard was even more outraged than I. The American food industry has gone way past the original intention of food processing, which was to provide a wider range of nutritious food to consumers. Howard was particularly angry about the lack of safe basics like bread (most supermarkets had no preservative-free sliced white bread at all. We had to look for Italian or French speciality breads, not always successfully) and rolled oats. We only found one supermarket in the approximately 40 visited which sold real rolled oats, the rest were flavoured, except for the regular (guar gum, sugar and colour 150, failsafe but why do it?). It was even difficult to buy rice except in little packets with flavour sachets. And the fruit - well, no wonder Americans have to eat everything with added flavours. On our trip we had encountered many third world countries with delicious fruit. The best were the tiny tree-ripened red delicious apples in Nepal. Now we tried the worst - although large and glossy looking, the red delicious apples were so revolting that we threw away most of those we bought.

 

WEIGHT LOSS

 

How does anyone stay slim in the USA? Portions are huge, fat contents are over the top. But we managed - by cooking for ourselves and walking a lot. Not easy to do, it was hard to find walking tracks except in national parks.

 

HOW TO SURVIVE FOOD IN THE USA

 

Ignore the brainwashing and cook for yourself. For $10 extra some budget motel chains offer a room with a microwave and fridge but mostly we used a tiny Camping Gaz or Coleman hikers' stove (some people carry small electric frypans for motel cooking) and a tin opener. When cooking was not permitted, we cooked on the verandah or in parks. Our standard US day: breakfast (we soon abandoned motel breakfasts) - rolled oats in boiling water, cooked rice, Rice Krispies, Weetabix, milk or soymilk, tinned fruit, decaf; lunch (many states have really good rest and picnic areas) - preservative-free bread, Philly cheese, shallots (called green onions), cucumber, lettuce, carrots, spring water; dinner - pot of home-cooked potatoes (or bought jacket potatoes) with butter or Philly cheese, and tins of corn, peas and plain tuna. Amine reactors limited the tuna, salicylate reactors limited the corn, carrots and cucumbers. When camping, instead of tuna we had wonderful campfire grilled steaks, and finished off with toasted marshmallows under the stars. Snacks were more difficult. A big supply of Kev and Pat's apple amaranth muffins kept us happy for the first week followed by a packet of wonderful Wild Oat all natural vanilla sandwich cremes (www.wildoats.com), Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche caramel icecream, Sam's Choice Butter Oatmeal cookies from Wal-Mart, failsafe but a whopping 50% fat, Boulder Potato Company totally natural chips, Poore brothers original potato chips, Lays Classic Potato chips (with "no preservatives" in the USA - these are the ones we use as a challenge for preservatives in Australia!); Health Valley fat-free old-fashioned Marshmallow bars (failsafe but not popular); Nature Valley Maple Brown Sugar Crunchy Granola bars (very sweet, not failsafe but close); natural yoghurt, many excellent organic brands. After that we started compromising.

 

BEST-OF-A-BAD-LOT SNACKS

 

Crown pilot chowder crackers (molasses might be a problem); Keebler (a reasonable brand, meant to be "uncommonly good" so why do they use artificial flavours. And is there unlisted antioxidant in the oil?) Crème Filled Vienna Fingers (artificial flavour, high fructose corn syrup - contains some salicylates - but only 30% fat); Keebler Club crackers (possible unlisted preservatives in the oil - and 30% fat content is high for a cracker); Lorna Doone shortbread cookies by Nabisco (artificial flavour and 45% fat); Keebler Chips Deluxe choc chip cookies (not too bad if you don't react to amines but 50% fat); Eskimo pie (chocolate coating not failsafe but it's so thin there's not much in it); Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Chocolate Chip Muffin Squares (not failsafe because they contain applesauce and chocolate, but we could manage them as holiday food); Sunbelt chocolate chip chewy granola bars (definitely not failsafe because they contain salicylates, amines and sulphites in coconut, honey and chocolate, but better than competitors which contain BHT and heaps of fruit). More on USA food in the next newsletter.

 

AIRLINE FOOD

 

A United flight from London and three subsequent flights within the USA suggested that it is not the airline but the point of departure that determines the quality of in-flight food. The meals from London were very good, unlike the next three flights, especially from Newark which would have been fine (steak, green beans, rice) if it hadn't been cooked in a sauce of what tasted like pure MSG. Just a few mouthfuls and I had a migraine the next day.

 

THE CHAINS

 

Good food is very expensive in the USA, bad food is cheap. We bought the occasional grilled steak, jacket potato and salad meal, but $A140 for the whole family was way too much for our budget. Occasional desperation led us to food chains. At Burger King, we survived the chips. Thanks for the detailed ingredient list, guys, but nothing is failsafe. A meal at Taco Bell - who knows what's in it, but with that colour, the bright orange cheese is definitely not OK - led to reactions all round. Thinking of Vienna one rainy day we tried Denny's decaf with cheesecake and Hershey chocolate mousse (the chocolate bar you can eat with a spoon) and spent the next 24 hours worrying about death by fat overload. At Dunkin Donuts, I recommend the decaf.

 

AIR POLLUTION

 

Although reputed to be improving, air pollution was much worse in the USA than I expected, not just in industrial centres like Detroit but also San Francisco, Denver Colorado and the Grand Canyon. Locals from Pennsylvania to California expressed their feeling that their country had become too overcrowded, and it did feel like that. On the plus side, Americans definitely have the best control of secondhand cigarette smoke in the world, with nonsmoking hotel rooms, restaurants and public transport - unlike European trains in which smokers and nonsmokers sit at either end of the same open carriage.

 

VISUAL POLLUTION

 

Driving in some of the USA brings to mind a poem by Ogden Nash:

I think that I shall never see

A billboard lovely as a tree.

Indeed unless the billboards fall

I'll never see a tree at all.

 

In amongst all the industry, strip development and commercial establishments clamouring for customers with ever-higher signs, McDonalds outlets - which look so offensive in other settings - fitted right in.

 

WATER POLLUTION

 

The Niagara River above the Falls on a still afternoon was a stunning sight with low sunlight gleaming on arrays of ice floes like a scene from Antarctica. It's hard to realise that this is one of the most polluted waterways in the world. Over the last 25 years, scientists have been measuring the level of more than 75 different toxic substances found in the eggs of Herring Gulls that feed and nest along the Niagara River and the Great Lakes. All the toxins measured in the gull's eggs have declined, especially levels of highly toxic hexachlorobenzene, dieldrin and PCBs which have dropped 90% or more, so cleanup efforts are succeeding.

 

CHEMICALS

 

This must be the Chemical Capital of the world. By day two, Arran had abandoned motel sheets because of mild itching, and slept in his silk sleeping bag liner. I was OK until I used Tide laundry powder twice in laundromats. After that, the combination of bleach, laundry powder and fabric conditioner in motels plus the Tide in my clothes led to nasty rashes which came and went - it took a while to figure out the cause. When I switched to Woolite and my sleeping bag liner, the rashes slowly cleared up. Judging by ubiquitous advertising for allergy and migraine drugs, we're not the only ones affected. On reaching more-or-less the end of the snow, we bought a $99 Wal-Mart dome tent and four sleeping mats ($2.99 each).

Camping in beautiful national parks and forest sites for the next two weeks was low-chemical, cheap and MUCH more scenic. So that is how we ended our trip to the most powerful and high-tech country in the world: quietly sleeping in a small tent under huge trees, and cooking over a wood fire.

 

MORE INFO : http://www.iceland.co.uk/ http://www.sainsbury.co.uk/ http://www.wildoats.com/

Cooks' corner

 

Apple muffins

 

Inspired by Kev and Pat's gluten-free muffins in the USA, this recipe uses wheat flour and is very easy. There is so little apple in each muffin you can regard it as failsafe. Kev and Pat's recipe calls for a mixture of gf flours including amaranth flour. Does anyone know if we can buy that in Australia?

1½ cups self-raising flour

½ cup sugar

1 egg lightly beaten

2/3 cup milk or soymilk

1/4 cup canola oil

1 small to medium golden delicious apple

1-2 tbsp extra sugar

Sift flour into a bowl and sugar, egg, milk, and oil, stirring with a fork until mixed. Peel and dice apple, sprinkle with extra sugar and stir into mixture. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with oil and spoon mixture into cups. Bake at 180°C for 15-20 minutes.

 

Email support group

 

There are now members from over fourteen countries in our email discussion group, sharing questions, recipes, support, successes, dramas and laughs.

 

To join, http://fedup.com.au/information/support/email-support-groups

 

 

This newsletter available free by email from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. © Sue Dengate (text). Further reading: The Simplified Elimination Diet from dietitians, Fed Up by Sue Dengate Random House, 1998 and Friendly Food, by Swain and others, Murdoch Books, 1991.