Our list of schools

Tell us about your canteen

Colours to avoid

Parent comments

Analysis of school canteen menu

More parent comments


More information


Independent scientists now acknowledge that artificial colours are linked to behaviour problems and learning disabilities in some children, and that government inaction is due to pressure from big business1,2,3 .

In the UK, artificially coloured foods are currently being phased out and since July 2010 in the EU foods with artificial colours must carry the warning 'may have an adverse effect on behaviour and attention in children'. In April 2011, the Aldi supermarket chain in Australia announced that all artificial colours had been removed from own brands as well as independent suppliers.

In the 1980s, removal of additives from school meals was strongly associated with learning a reduction of learning disabilities and improved academic achievement in the largest study of its kind ever done, with over a million students in 803 New York City schools4,5. Read more ....

Earlier this year, a large Dutch study published in the prestigious Lancet medication journal became the 10th to show that between 60 and 100 per cent of children with ADHD do not need medication if they use the right diet6.

Diet has also been associated with criminal behaviour including conduct disorder, showing that 100% of persistent juvenile offenders did not reoffend when they stuck to their diet7.

There is a list of Additives most likely to be a problem on page 43 of the new National Healthy School Canteens Guidelines for healthy foods and drinks supplied in school canteens.

Yet some Australian schools are continuing to sell artificially coloured products to children ...

Our list of schools

Report no*

Your school name or region

Artificially coloured product type

No of products


Country NSW

hot dogs, ice tubes, slushies, icypoles, licorice twists, strawberry milk, yoghurt-based snacks



Beaconsfield Primary, VIC

flavoured milk



Country NSW

'Spiders' - drinks with artificially coloured soft drinks and ice cream UPDATE: discontinued!!



Glen Huon Primary School, TAS

Policy is to avoid the additives listed on your website



Warnervale Public School, NSW

Used to be "a healthy canteen" that met all the government requirements. It was stocked with every food known to man that was loaded with additives – now additive-free policy



Sydney NSW

in summer time the Ice tubes sold have artificial colours



Country VIC

Zooper Dooper, other ingredients n/a

At least 4


Sydney NSW

Flavoured milk, other ingredients n/a


Brisbane QLD

Ingredients not available


New Zealand

Junk food is offered as a reward for good behaviour


Brisbane QLD

Pickles, sausage rolls, pies, icypole, jellies, sprinkles - online ingredient list, see analysis below



Sydney lower north shore NSW

slushies (definite), Moosies Milk Ice Treat (Blue Moon contains 133), (icypoles & flavoured milk probable artificial colours)

at least 4


Adelaide metropolitan SA

"the canteen has sooo many bad foods i don't want my 5 yo daughter going anywhere near it"

don't know


Wollongong north NSW

We seem to have red days everyday (on the green/amber/red system) my readings indicate only twice a term should there be red days

don't know


Regional NSW

sausage rolls, jellies, drinkable jellies, numerous others



Illawarra NSW

slushies, icy bites, paddle pops

don't know


Mid north coast NSW

"I am appalled by some of the food they serve in my daughter's school canteen"

don't know


Gold Coast QLD

Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, GATORADE and POWERADE (what the???), Fried Dim Sims, Hot Chips, Chicken Nuggets, Meat Pies, Sausage Rolls, Lollies, Candies and Iceblocks

don't know

*See reports below 

Tell us about your canteen, good or bad

  • name of your school (unless good, we will only report the region so as not to embarrass you)
  • types of artificially coloured products in your canteen (if known)
  • the number of artificially coloured products in your school canteen (you will need to read labels and check against the names or numbers above)
  • your comment (optional)

The most common complaints so far:

  • Parents are unable to find out about ingredients in school canteen products – if so, we’d like to hear that too!
  • Parents are concerned about all nasty additives, not just artificial colours.

Please send your email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Colours to avoid (the 14 artificial colours currently approved in Australia)

102 tartrazine                 104 quinoline yellow      110 sunset yellow

122 azorubine                123 amaranth                124 ponceau red

127 erythrosine              129 allura red                132 indigotine

133 brilliant blue            142 green S                  143 Fast green FCF

151 brilliant black          155 chocolate brown

Comments linked to reports above

1. Our school uses the Traffic Light System as opposed to focusing on additives. Attached is the current tuckshop menu (24 items with artificial colours). I would much prefer to focus on the removal of additives. - Country NSW                        

2. Beaconsfield: P&F actively aims to have low additive foods: The parents and friends association at Beaconsfield Primary school in Victoria actively aims to have low additive foods in our canteen ... One of the products has artificial colour - flavoured milk - and this product was chosen because it had less additives than other flavours. Most of the other products are "nasty" free, and they even have 2 failsafe products! - Miriam, Vic

3. Our school seems intent on using "red light" days to the extreme with the selling of "spider drinks" – artificially coloured soft drinks and ice cream. UPDATE: I have been informed that the school will never hold another Spider Day. This is great news and also preceded the nutrition policy being implemented, so something must be working. - Country NSW

4. The school canteen at the Glen Huon Primary School is only open once a week and is run by volunteers. As part of the policy the canteen avoids the additives as listed on your website. There are products available on the shelf at the local supermarket, it is just a matter of reading the labels. Sometimes the products we purchase do cost more and do not last on the shelf as long but it is worth the little bit of extra effort. The changes at Glen Huon came about from the parents requesting 'no artificial flavours, colours and nasty preservatives'. So get other parents to let their school canteens know what they want. – Tas

5. Our canteen at Warnervale Public School used to be "a healthy canteen" that met all the government requirements. It was stocked with every food known to man that was loaded with additives. With a push from a couple of parents and the full support of the Principal and Assistant Principal, the canteen has been slowly changed as foods were sourced to replace current ones, and finally we just deleted every food that didn't meet the no chemical additive requirement. The one exception being the bread, but we're working on that. This included not only colours, but preservatives and flavours as well. The weekly menu was completely overhauled and although it has been difficult at times with a couple of upset parents, we have had far more support for the changes than opposition. It's an ongoing education for parents, as there is so little true understanding of what 'healthy' actually is. What many parents consider healthy actually isn't. We have sourced sausages and meat patties which are additive free and contain 40% vegetables. We sell juice by the cup that is 100% additive free. The only milk for sale is plain milk. We have worked up a slushie recipe (as they are so popular) that is additive free. Anyway, you get the picture. - NSW

6. My eldest has the biggest reactions to non-failsafe food, however my youngest son just started school this year. I have also increased my days at work and taken up tertiary study. With less spare time, I figured using the full canteen facilities at our school would help me out and save me some time. I can order and pay online, up to 1 week in advance, so this suited me. Unfortunately when I look at the menu, apart from sandwiches (cheese, salad, ham, chicken roll, vegemite, jam and honey!!) the other hot or substantial food and snacks are all foods they can't eat.

  • flavoured milk
  • fruit juices
  • dips with crackers
  • raisin toast
  • potato with cheese
  • Mrs Mac pies
  • Hokkien noodles
  • lasagne, Mac & Cheese & Spag Bol
  • flavoured chips

They go to a great school that does a wonderful job of looking after the children. The canteen is also very proud of the fact that they have rated very highly in the accreditation for Healthy Canteen program (mostly green lights, and only some orange, No red lights), however I too feel they have overlooked the fundamentals when it comes to ingredients.

The school is large with over 800 students, the canteen is very busy and has 1 full time paid staff member and on average of 3-6 parent helpers every day. With this number of student customers, I would like to think they would be very interested in settling them all down by introducing food that has a more beneficial impact on their classroom behaviour. - Sydney

7. Foods on offer at my children’s school include hot chicken roll (supermarket freezer type), Macaroni cheese (pkt), mini pizza (frozen), Hot Dog in a bun, meat pies (frozen), pastie (frozen), party pies (frozen), sausage rolls (frozen), dim sims (frozen) and Frozen Zooper Dooper – country Victoria

8. I have just started helping in our school canteen and was shocked by the 2 minute noodles they sell. They also sell a lot of flavored milk. - Sydney

9. My daughters school uses 'flexischools' for their tuckshop. You order and pay online. I have never bought her anything from the tuckshop because the website doesn't list ANY ingredients. So I have no idea even if the bread is ok in a sandwich! I have emailed flexischools to see if they will think about adding ingredients for those kids out there with allergies and intolerances. They said they were unable to guarantee ingredients as supplies can change with the supplier. I just want to say it’s awesome how much you have achieved, and slowly (could it ever be quick enough?) things are starting to improve. Even since starting this diet 2 years ago, it has become so much easier to shop. We have more choices, which is great. We remain artificial preservative, additive and colour free. I still keep my wallet size nasty list in my purse and refer to it often. Once you learn about failsafe and gain an understanding of the chemicals we ingest, and what they do to our bodies, there's just no way you can go back, even if you don't strictly need to be fully failsafe. - Brisbane

10. I’m fed up with the amount of Junk food that is offered at my daughters school as a reward for good behavior. – New Zealand

11. I do not have a child attending West End State School in Queensland, but they freely publish a detailed ingredients list for their tuck shop menu on-line: West End State School Tuck Shop Menu 2014

Thanks for your great work - Brisbane

12. Lower North Shore Sydney - The tuck shop is currently undergoing a wave of change which has been stressful for some of the managing parents to cope with but nevertheless good things have happened and there is more to come (we hope).

The tuck shop still has the following additives included in the menu - essentially these are in the Slushies

  • Sodium metabisulphite (preservative 223)
  • Sodium benzoate (preservative 211)
  • Artificial colours carmoisine (122), tartrazine (102), brilliant blue (133)
  • Calcium cyclamate artificial sweetener (952)
  • Acesulfame potassium artificial sweetener (950)

Possibly/probably additive-laden foods still on menu:

Ham (?nitrate preservatives')
Roast chicken from local BBQ shop (?MSG)
Low fat cheese
3 flavoured milks
3 flavoured springwaters
Spring rolls processed (using palm oil)
Mamee Hot Noodles (Chicken/Beef)
Meadowlea Spread
Grain Waves chips "Sour Cream" and "Sweet Chilli"
Icy Poles 2 flavours (lemon & raspberry)
Moosies (chocolate, blue, strawberry)
Billabong Swirl & chocolate

Good changes made in last 6 mths (there are more but I don't have all the details):


Processed sausage rolls
Processed meat pies
Red Rock deli Honey & Soy chips
Blue Moosie Milk Bar
In process of removing the spring rolls


Preservative containing bread with fresh no-preservative bread
Processed potato wedges with home-made roasted potato wedges with only oil & salt
Processed sausage rolls with home made sausage rolls


Home made meat balls and sauce (with pasta or in a bread roll)
Canned Red Salmon to sandwiches options
Freshly squeezed AJ and OJ
Home made frozen mashed/frozen fruit cups in three fresh fruits (pineapple, mango, grape)
Home baked banana and berry muffins
Home baked banana bread
Home baked Anzac biscuits
Fresh yoghurt with cut fruit cups
Freshly made popcorn

"Bad" changes in last 6 months:

Retained the "Slushies"
Added 2 flavours of chips (sour cream and chilli Grain Waves)
Retained 3 flavours of milks
Retained 3 flavours of springwaters
Retained 2 flavours of Icy Poles
Retained 2 flavours of Moosies Milk Bars
Retained Cheese and Tom paste toasted english muffins
"Fun Day" for infants was a serving of specially ordered hot dogs
"Mini fund raiser" by primary a grade was selling cans of Coca Cola to infants school kids (full size I understand).

So far there has been a lot of good change in last 9mths. It has taken slow steps and cautious attitude and caused some stress. A lot of good feedback and only some teething problems. Offers to review the ingredient lists of the products have been strongly resisted - for no known reason.

13. My daughter is in reception at a government school in metropolitan Adelaide. For some reason they push the canteen on all the poor overwhelmed 5 yr olds but sadly the canteen has sooo many bad foods i don't want my daughter going anywhere near it as i know she would be swayed by other children and all the crazy packaging on the bad foods... BUT they say they are such a good canteen... In my eyes, being a good canteen would be to have almost 100% good food as opposed to 80% bad food with an "option" to choose from the 20% good food :( i think they believe they are doing the right thing, but sadly no! Is there any chance of a "nudge" from you? I'd very much like to be anonymous, thank you for that option.

14. Wollongong northern region. We seem to have red days everyday (on the green/amber/red system) my readings indicate only twice a term should there be red days. I feel this system is definitely fallible and purely up to the interpretation of the individual/committee running the canteen. Or the pushy wholesaler selling the products. The canteen's failings is really the downstream result of a major upstream problem and our children are the guinea pigs.

15. I was just in my son's canteen today and looking through new products to see if we had any 'winners' and trying to influence the menu for the better.. I am continually horrified at what the NSW Canteens Association considers fine to be sold in canteens. Here are some of the nasty foods our canteen sells. I am happy for you to list this as "Regional NSW" and not use my name or the School.

Red Rock Deli Honey Soy Chicken Chips
Hello Pandas
Chicken Jumpy's, Salt and Vinegar Jumpys -
Lifesaver Iceblocks
Brown, Yellow and Pink Mousies Icecreams
Bulla Vanilla Icecream Cups
Berri Fruit Tubes
Frozen Yoghurts
Peters Icecream blocks (like what you would have between an Icecream Sandwich)
Coles Chicken Rice Crackers
Aroona Cola, Green and Red Mineral Water
Macquarie Valley Pop Top Juices
Red, Green and Orange Jelly
Orange and Grape Drinkable Jellies
Chocolate, Strawberry and Banana Moove Flavoured Milks
Thompsons Pies and Sausage Rolls

All of the above items either contain colours, preservatives, flavour enhancers or HVP. I checked out the sausage rolls today to find they had red and yellow colouring in them!!! Then on Disco nights, they offer up additional lollies on top of the above items. I actually refuse to now work on the canteen on Disco Nights as I cannot bear to sell such dreadful items to the kids. Breaks my heart the most to sell the items to the Kindergarten kids knowing full well how bad it is for them.

16. Our school is in the Illawarra NSW area. Colours in the Canteen include:

Moove milks - banana, chocolate and strawberry.
A slushy machine which makes red and I think green slushies.
Icy bites - all contain colour
Margarine which contains colour (and preservative)
Paddle Pops - chocolate, rainbow and banana

Preservatives also stop us from having frozen juice and frozen yogurt and also the apple and orange juice. Flavour enhancers are in JJ's and another brand of rice snack chip

17. I volunteer in my daughters school canteen on the mid north coast and am appalled at some of the foods they serve considering they have been awarded by the National Healthy Schools Canteens organisation. Their biggest selling product are 'chicken fingers' e.g processed chicken goujons. Other items on the menu include:

Pizzas: Chicken and cheese, Ham and Pineapple
Chicken fingers with sweet and sour or tomato sauce
Fish fingers
Homemade spaghetti bolognese
Nachos: plain cheese or with salsa
Potato wedges with or without gravy
Lunch time only (items listed here for the reason that children may get a little hypo early in the day if consumed at recess)
icy poles made in canteen from reconstituted juice they have a choice of colours red (black current or apple and raspberry) or orange.
Vanilla Icecream Bulla
Frozen yogurts Bulla, fruit salad, strawberry, peach, mango.
They also provide the following at random intervals
Chocolate milk poppers
snack size chocolates at special events
cheese on jatz or rice crackers
fruit sticks
strawberry and marshmallow sticks
boost ice creams
commercial icy poles

I am unsure of the additives, preservatives, flavours and antioxidants in the products but would love to see the canteen more health conscious whilst offering preservative, additive, flavour and antioxidant free food.

18. Each year the children at our Gold Coast school participate in a combined schools Soccer and Netball carnival. The children were sent home a canteen order form for the event and I just had to write to you about it ... it just amazes me that this is still happening. The children are allowed to eat these kinds of foods because it's considered a once a term red light event. I just want to know why they think an event that is supposed to promote physical activity and when we are in an era where childhood obesity and type 2 diabeties are becoming epidemic would my child be allowed to order from the following: Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, GATORADE and POWERADE (what the???) Fried Dim Sims, Hot Chips, Chicken Nuggets, Meat Pies, Sausage Rolls. Lollies, Candies and Iceblocks sold at the counter on the day (well hooray for that)

There are also some sandwich options which include ham, chicken/ cheese and salad but lets face it how many kids are going to order those and even if they do the nitrates, fake cheese and preservatives are not any better than the other rubbish. This makes me really upset.

More stories This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Additive analysis of school canteen menu

Total: 32 problematic additives in 21 items

Congratulations to this Queensland school for making all ingredient lists available online.

Artificial colours (7 items)

Three Threes Sweet Mustard pickles (102), Kool Skool Sausage Rolls (102, 124), Kool Skool Meat pie (102, 110, 124), Raspberry Pine Calippo (102, 124), Jelly (Caterers Choice) "permitted food colours"*, Chocolate slice "coloured sprinkles". (*assuming at least two flavours - note that this isn't a legal label: the colours should be specified)

Annatto natural colour 160b (3 items)

Paddlepop chocolate, Sanitarium Vegetarian Hotdogs, Patties Lite Party Pie

Synthetic antioxidant 320 (1 item)

Kraft mayonnaise

Preservatives (12 items)

200-203 sorbates: Diego's gluten free Pita, Kool Skool Sausage Rolls, Kool Skool Meat Pies,

220-228 sulphites: Vegemite, Sweet mustard pickles, Woolworths Caesar dressing, Yiros Falafel, Streets frozen yoghurt

251-252 nitrates: Hans hot dogs

280-283 propionates: Rosita's Pita Bread, Diego's gluten free bread, Patties Lite Party pies

621-635 MSG & other flavour enhancers (9 items)

Patties Lite Party Pies (MSG 621)

Red Rock Deli honey soy chips (MSG 621, 627, 631, hydrolysed vegetable protein, yeast extract)

Smiths Crisps sour cream & onion (MSG 621, 635, hydrolysed vegetable protein)

Kool Skool Sausage Rolls (flavour enhancer 627)

Kool Skool Meat Pies (yeast extract, flavour enhancer 627)

Barbecue sauce (hydrolysed maize protein)

Hans Hot Dogs (yeast extract)

Gravox Gravy for sandwiches (yeast extract)

Vegemite (yeast extract)


There are also many additive free foods available, see below.

However, this list illustrates the following points

  • some children will choose to eat additive-laden foods frequently
  • some additive-containing items, such as mayonnaise, salad dressing and sauces, may be consumed frequently
  • parents need additive information so that they can work out which is the healthier option e.g. that loaf bread is healthier than pita bread due to preservatives


Other comments about school canteens

[875] Onset of depression, aggression and hyperactivity in a 6 yo linked to school canteen food (November 2009)

My six year old son was diagnosed with asthma/allergy at 2 years old. Several medications were diagnosed for him. Not wanting to go down this path I consulted a naturopath, who managed his condition with vitamins and restricted diet. But this year upon starting school my normally bright, happy child became depressed, aggressive and hyperactive. A pattern of school canteen usage emerged at which point I requested a list of ingredients for some of the things he was buying. To my horror, the slushy he was ordering contained two artificial colours and two preservatives (benzoate preservative 211 and potassium sorbate 202). The lady who runs the canteen said that this product is known as an AMBER school product. Apparently you are allowed to sell it in canteens as long as you do not have too many other AMBER products on the menu. - Leesa, by email

[1015] Quite shocked by food options (May 2011)

I'm quite shocked by the food options in our school canteen, especially considering the schools push for healthy food choices and the term long curriculum unit for grades 1 and 2 about healthy eating - any suggestions, support or information would be much appreciated. - thanks to Hannah

[1014] Pleasant surprise in school newsletter (May 2011)

I have been concerned about my kids school and their food policies and have been gathering info so I could show the school the link, but yesterday I got a pleasant surprise.

In the weekly newsletter there was information from your Fed Up website informing parents of the risks of food chemicals and preservatives and the symptoms associated with them plus info about what parents can do and suggested foods to buy.

I almost fell off my chair - I am so happy that finally the school is recognising the important factor that food has on kids behaviour.

I am hoping that this will translate in better food at the tuckshop and lessen the push by teachers for dried fruit and cheese sticks (with preservatives) for the kid's brain food (ie snack food). I am writing the principal a "thank you" email for putting this info in the newsletter, hopefully some parents will take note. I thought I would let you know that the word is spreading, even up here in Nth Qld, and I think it is great! - Fiona, by email

[1013] What kids eat during breaks (May 2011)

I work as a relief teacher (primary) and I am appalled by the food kids eat during breaks. Sometime I just want to throw up when I see their brightly coloured muesli bars, yogurt snacks and prepackaged "whatever is on the market". I have often come back from morning break to a totally different class of kids. It's like they went from angels to little devils. It can only be what they ate that has turned them so crazy! I think it is outrageous what they are doing to our food. There is hardly anything left to buy that is prepackaged in the supermarket that is safe to eat! - teacher, Qld


1.Professor Peter Saunders, Food Colouring Confirmed Bad for Children, Food Standards Agency Refuses to Act. UK Institute for Science in Society, 2007. (Artificial colours are now being phased out in the UK, but it explains why our regulators refuse to act in Australia).

2. Why the FDA is turning a blind eye to food dye dangers, with a link to independent scientists -

3. Food Dyes - Center for Science in the Public Interest

4. Schoenthaler, SJ, Doraz WE, Wakefield JA. 1986 – The Impact of a Low Food Additive and Sucrose Diet on Academic Performance in 803 New York City Public Schools, International Journal of Biosocial Research, Vol. 8(2): 185-195

5. Schoenthaler, SJ, Doraz WE, Wakefield JA. 1986a – The Testing of Various Hypotheses as Explanations for the Gains in National Standardized Academic Test Scores in the 1978-1983 New York City Nutrition Policy Modification Project, International Journal of Biosocial Research, Vol. 8(2): 196-203

6. Pelsser LM and others Effects of a restricted elimination diet on the behaviour of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (INCA study): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2011;377(9764):494-503.

7. Bennett CPW, McEwen LM, Rose E. The Shipley Project: treating food allergy to prevent criminal behaviour in community settings. J Nutr Envir Med 1998;8:77-83. • 100% of 9 chronic juvenile offenders aged 8-16 improved significantly on a three week open trial of the Few Foods diet. Those who remained on the diet did not re-offend.

Further information

Eating for Success! (a low additive plan for schools)
Healthy Choice School Canteens 

Additive free foods for school canteens from

FIN Talking point: School canteens discussion February 2008

Eating to Win (a low additive plan for sporting teams)
Schools go low additive

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. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians

© Sue Dengate update January 2012.