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.

SIX  YEAR  UPDATE

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

Joomla SEF URLs by Artio