Asthma and diet are frequently ignored by health professionals, even though sulphite in particular can be the leading cause of asthma in children according to the World Health Organisation.

When children in NSW go back to school, their asthma attacks increase by a factor of five. The food they take to school also contains large quantities of sulphite preservatives, which have long been linked to asthma. Over 100 years ago the relationship between sulphites added to foods and asthma led to the first food regulations, but people have forgotten this while the food industry, government regulators and even asthma associations neglect their responsibilities for public health education in this area.

QUESTION: How many dried apricots can a 2 yo kid eat in a day to reach the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) set by food regulators?

ANSWER: About half a dried apricot in a day to reach the Acceptable Daily Intake!

Below you will find information and links to help you look out for asthma sensitisers in your food. The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance.

The media reports: "Research reveals there is a significant jump in the number of children taken to emergency departments with asthma when the school year starts. Normally like in January we might have 300 children coming along to hospitals and it can jump up as high as 1,600 in February," NSW Health Department senior environmental health policy officer Dr Vicky Sheppeard said. From:

The conservative World Health Organisation says 20-30% of asthmatic kids react to sulphites while Australian research says up to 65% of asthmatic kids are affected (see references in FIN paper below). The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended phasing out the use of sulphite preservatives where possible due to effects on child asthmatics. If that happened overnight the prevalence of childhood asthma would probably halve, but progress is glacially slow. Parents do not realise that many children can be turned into asthmatics just by what they eat. Despite this evidence, the drug company-sponsored National Asthma Council of Australia continues to say of asthma and food that “Food is not a common trigger for asthma”  and “Foods, drinks and food chemicals affect less than 5% of people with asthma.”

Look at these three stories and the scientific evidence in links below:

[526] Diet has been a lifesaver (January 2007)

We have had excellent results with diet for our five-year-old daughter who had severe asthma attacks with daily singulair, ventholin, atrovent and also 3 lots of prednisilone within the space of about 3 or 4 months at the beginning of 2006. Since going failsafe in August, not even a cough. I attribute a big part of this success to eliminating both sulphites and artificial colours in particular.
I always felt that there was something more we could do, but just didn't know where to start. My children had what I thought to be such a healthy diet, no cordials, lollies and lots of fruit and dried fruit for snacks. Now I know better.

If telling our story assists in being a catalyst for positive change for other families in situations like ours, that will be wonderful - Monica, NSW

[525] “a second lease on life” (January 2007)

Without sounding corny, it is like my daughter has been given a second lease on life.

Our youngest daughter was diagnosed with asthma at 3 years of age and we then spent many times in and out hospital, with still no improvement. She missed so many days of Preschool, could not run without puffing and requiring her asthma puffer all the time, she also had permanent grey colour under her eyes. We really did not think we would be able to send her to was that bad.

Then a friend of mine from work went to a Sue Dengate talk … and the light went on. I contacted my husband immediately and told him about it, cause we had been so worried and that night I cleaned out all my food cupboard and fridge and made it additive-free.

Our daughter is now 6 and is going into Year 1 and has not been in hospital since the month we stopped the additives. We have a liitle girl who runs, jumps for ages on the trampoline, has lost the grey under her eyes and very happy parents.

Abbey knows that she can't have food with additives and has had to make a lot of sacrifices, but when she said to me a few months after stopping all of that, that she feels better then I know it is all worth it - Kathy, NSW

[524] Open neglect by medical establishment  (January 2007)

Criminal. It's the only word that comes to mind when I realise that, from the age of 10, I have suffered terribly from asthma; and yet, over the next 23 years, not a single - I repeat NOT A SINGLE - so-called "doctor" ever once asked if my condition might be due to environmental factors", or that it might be caused by the food that I eat... All they ever did was pop a stethoscope on my back, and fill out a prescription for ventolin... "See ya next time, Mark!"

I am so angry and frustrated at the modern medical establishment for their open neglect. For years, almost every morning I would wake with an awful wheeze and a fit of coughing... And it only got worse as my 20's progressed!

When I think back to those days (although I never made the precise connection myself at the time), it got to the point where I would need my puffer after almost every meal! Macca's.. Pizza... Pies... even good 'ole home cooked meals like curries, stews & roasts! As you can imagine, I became very depressed.

I will also confess that I was indeed a smoker as well (I know, I know), but I gave them up around 3 years ago thinking that IT was the main *cause* of my asthma... Oddly enough, I was wrong ... the daily ritual wheezing-fest continued unabated. I was, by then, needing up to 20 puffs a day and my depression worsened. I remember thinking: "I've given up the damn ciggies, so why aren't I any better?! What's wrong with me?" I began to accept that I would NEVER recover from this ailment.

Then I discovered your website, "Fedup!" ... And oh what a life changer!

I bought the video a few months back and have read much of the material on the website, and with what I now know about salicylates, amines, preservatives and additives of all kinds, it finally all makes sense!

So far, my family and I have managed to stop the intake of preservatives and additives (That's the EASY part!) with noticeable improvements too, I might add, especially for my asthma! However, I have not completely recovered yet, and my eldest son - although improved - still has temper problems; so, over the last two days we have finally started tackling the salicylate/amine issue... It's harder I'll admit, BUT, I can already see definite positive-changes from my first-born son, and in my own well-being as well.

It's been around 6 months now since we actively started amending our diet, and overall, my asthma is now highly manageable... (I now use the ventolin only rarely, and the morning-wheeze is completely gone!) But, it's not just that: I finally feel "in control" for the first time ever; I feel that there is now real hope that it could perhaps, go altogether! I really do.

Thank God for you, Sue. Thank you for caring enough about human beings in general, to do what you do. Alright, I'm falling to tears now... so I best go - Mark & family, Vic

Three Food Intolerance Network factsheets:

food additives & asthma

dangers of dried fruit


Link to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) paper on sulphite and benzoate

Link to Food Intolerance Network criticism of FSANZ paper

Link to Food Intolerance Network media release on halving asthma through diet

QUESTION: How many dried apricots can a child eat before reaching the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 0.7mg/kg bodyweight?









Acceptable Daily

Grams of apricots to reach

Number of



Intake (ADI) of sulphites

ADI at 3000mg sulphite/kg

dried apricots



at 0.7mg sulphites/kg weight

of apricots

for ADI







































































37 dried apricots in 200g packet = 5.4g/apricot



If the apricots contain the legally permitted 3000mg/kg of sulphite, then one apricot gives a dose of 16.2 mg






ANSWER: A 2 year old can only eat about half of one dried apricot in a day to reach the Acceptable Daily Intake ADI.







A 10 year old reaches the ADI by eating only 1.5 dried apricots in a day.


 But note that any dose of sulphites can be too much for some asthmatics.

Sulphites (preservatives 220-228) in common children’s foods


Dried fruit

Nearly all dried fruit CONTAIN SULPHITES up to 3,000 mg/kg

eg        all dried apricots

 All fruit bars CONTAIN SULPHITES (and often nasty colours too) perhaps up to 2,000 mg/kg*

            eg        IXL Fruit Bars

                        Uncle Toby’s

                        Europe apricot and coconut bars

 Safer alternatives WITHOUT SULPHITES

            eg        Lion of Sahara Crispy Fruit (freeze dried mangoes, apples etc)

                        Sunbeam Fruit Bites banana chips

                  Fresh fruit



All sausages CONTAIN SULPHITES up to 500 mg/kg unless labelled preservative-free

For sausages WITHOUT SULPHITES, look for butchers offering preservative-free sausages, use home-made rissoles, or buy frozen sausages on the east coast by mail-order - see Shopping List on


Luncheon meats

 All luncheon meats CONTAIN SULPHITES up to 500 mg/kg

eg        Devon, Luncheon Meat

 Alternatives WITHOUT SULPHITES include home-cooked roast beef or chicken and some salamis



All 250ml sipper bottles CONTAIN SULPHITES (and often benzoates and nasty colour) up to 115 mg/kg

eg        Pop Tops 250 ml orange drink

                        Juice Pops

                        P&N Brekky Juice

                        Juice Pops apple juice

Alternatives WITHOUT SULPHITES: all 250ml cartons we checked are FREE OF  SULPHITES AND OTHER PRESERVATIVES

            eg        Just Juice apple and pear

                        Popper Juice

                        Golden Circle

*Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code 2000. Comments based on supermarket visit 14/1/07.

© Sue Dengate update January 2007