Frequently Asked Questions

Support questions

Questions asked in a school project and answered by Sue Dengate:

Does the modern day diet have any effect on the way our bodies respond to the food we digest?
Is genetically modified food linked to causes of food intolerance?
What are the common causes of food intolerance?
Is it a genetic trait possibly obtained from a relative?
How reliable are the results obtained by the food intolerance test, such as the pinner test?
What are the long-term effects, in regards to digestive health, when eating the food(s) you are intolerant to?
How do supplements, such as digestive enzymes and probiotics, contribute to overcoming your sensitivity?

Do breastfeeding mothers use the strict elimination diet with success?

Any help with travel in USA?

Wondering about the 93 food intolerance test and if it's worth the $380 to do it?

Are essential oils failsafe if they have been tested free of salicylates?

Would it be possible for the Food Intolerance Network to 'crowd fund' some laboratory testing into the chemical content of untested foods?

Is failsafe eating cheap or expensive?

How can I stick to the diet at a wedding?

How do you stop a child from lunch swapping?

How can I help my just five year old ADHD son in the playground?

How can I get cooperation about the diet from my son’s school?

Is it possible to get better food into school canteens?

Is there a brief introduction to food intolerance on a card I can give to parents?

How can we stick to the diet while on a trip to the USA?

How can I get detailed information about allergens in products?

Our paediatrician refuses to consider diet for behaviour - what can I do?

What's involved in being a support person?

How can I talk to other families who are doing diet? All the people I know give their ADHD children medication and I feel so alone.

What exactly is confrontational parenting/teaching as mentioned in the list of common mistakes?

 

Questions asked in a school project and answered by Sue Dengate:

Q1: Does the modern day diet have any effect on the way our bodies respond to the food we digest?

The official view from our food regulators FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) is that the effects of food additives are transient - that is, some people are sensitive to some additives (and natural chemicals) but they can choose to avoid them, and when they stop eating them, the side effects will resolve. There are some recent animal studies showing now that, for example, some artificial sweeteners can alter the microbiome and perhaps lead to obesity, but these have yet to be proven in humans. Studies about the persistence of probiotics in the microbiome show that the microbiome rapidly goes back to what it was once probiotics are stopped, suggesting that the microbiome is very stable. However, high fat diets and high protein diets have clear and separate effects on the microbiome.

Q2: Is genetically modified food linked to causes of food intolerance?

Not that I know of. But we are not confident about the extent of regulation and testing, since our food regulators say the foods are well tested before approval. We already know that their tests of food additives before approval have been anything but reliable and comprehensive.

Q3: What are the common causes of food intolerance?

Inheritance - being born into a food intolerant family

Illness - especially gastrointestinal

Exposure to man-made chemicals - such as pesticides and medications such as antibiotics.  Many failsafers think their salicylate sensitivity started with medication as in the following:

“I believe my salicylate intolerance began after using acne medication called Accutane”
“salicylate sensitivity: I was symptom free until I started to take synthroid”
“I developed salicylate sensitivity which I 100% believe was triggered by the medication I was put on” (antibiotics and steroids, from story [1461])
Feldene (active ingredient Piroxicam) and Naprogesic (active ingredient Naproxen) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used as painkillers, from story [1399])
“Medication-induced salicylate intolerance” (Orthoxicol, story [1381])

Stress - can make food intolerance worse

Hormones - for example women of child-bearing age are more sensitive

Age -  young children and the elderly are more sensitive
       - young children because reactions are related to the size of dose per kilogram of bodyweight, so babies and small children are most vulnerable and likely to develop better tolerance as they grow bigger
       - the elderly because ageing affects the blood-brain barrier, the gateway that normally protects the brain from potential toxins including food additives

Q4: Is it a genetic trait possibly obtained from a relative?

Yes, absolutely. Food intolerance runs in families, as above.

Q5: How reliable are the results obtained by the food intolerance test, such as the pinner test?

According to RPAH, there are no proven laboratory tests for food intolerance (as opposed to IgE mediated food allergy; and tests for coeliac disease). The only scientifically proven way to diagnose food intolerance is using an elimination diet, and in our experience, the RPAH elimination diet is the most effective.

Reference: Unorthodox testing for allergy/intolerance https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-testing/unorthodox-testing-and-treatment

Q6: What are the long-term effects, in regards to digestive health, when eating the food(s) you are intolerant to?

 Food intolerance reactions are considered by RPAH researchers to be transient, that is, reactions will stop when the culprits are avoided and there will be no permanent damage (except for coeliacs with gluten).

Q7: How do supplements, such as digestive enzymes and probiotics, contribute to overcoming your sensitivity?

Digestive enzymes and probiotics are not part of the RPAH elimination diet.  When the 3 steps of the diet have been followed - including gradual reintroduction - some dietitians may recommend certain supplements. I myself have overcome gluten intolerance that was induced by travellers diarrhoea several times by taking a course of dietitian-recommended probiotics called Saccharomyces boulardii and I now always use it in a product called Travel Bug for prevention of travellers diarrhoea when travelling. As with any food, supplements can be tested as a challenge once a stable baseline has been achieved by following the elimination phase of the RPAH diet. More at https://www.fedup.com.au/news/blog/can-antibiotics-cause-gluten-intolerance  and https://www.fedup.com.au/news/blog/saccharomyces-boulardii-and-diatomaceous-earth-are-these-failsafe-supplements-that-can-help-with-irritable-bowel-symptoms

 Q: Do breastfeeding mothers use the strict elimination diet with success?

A:
Yes, for example the following reader story:

 I first had contact with Sue way back in 2001, when her article called ‘Restless Babies’ in Nursing Mothers magazine saved my life!! I went failsafe as I was breastfeeding our unsettled/ ratty 6 mth old baby. We were amazed after she became a new baby after 3 days of diet!! That baby is now 9, and very conscious of the additives that affect her, and knows that by avoiding them, she feels better - from story [960]

 RPAH recommends that breastfeeding mothers do the diet under the supervision of a dietitian who specialises in food intolerance.

More about breastfeeding and diet

 Q: Any help with travel in USA?

A: There's a USA shopping list here (a bit out of date and some people are working to update it ) https://fedup.com.au/information/shopping-list/general-and-non-food

There's this from 2014: https://fedup.com.au/factsheets/support-factsheets/additives-around-the-world#usa 
And this is particularly useful: Additives in the USA where different names and numbers are used https://fedup.com.au/images/stories/additivesUSA.pdf

   Q: Wondering about the 93 food intolerance test and if it's worth the $380 to do it? - Tegan

A: Our experience in the Network is that tests such as hair/AAE/Igg/Elisa/Rast/Imupro don't work for food intolerances (although they may be of value for true allergies). Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit researchers, whose diet we support, say “Unlike allergies, there are no skin tests or blood tests that can help diagnose intolerances” (page 19, RPAH Elimination Diet Handbook).

This website lists 15 allergy tests to avoid and is worth reading because some also claim to diagnose food intolerance: http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/page/unproven-methods-food-allergy-tests.aspx. Ditto this from an Australian source https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-testing/unorthodox-testing-and-treatment 

The tests may appear to work because they exclude so many things, and some of them people do react to. The trouble is that you are also excluding some foods that you can in fact tolerate (false negatives), and still taking some foods that you can't tolerate (false positives). People who try this approach will often find that they believe that they can tolerate more than they expect initially, but it is very difficult for an individual to measure symptoms that change by small amounts on a day to day basis - this can be because symptoms are changing (eg going from restlessness to loud and annoying) or because the changes are tiny each day but can build up.

Here is our test: if the person who diagnosed it wants to sell you something, a supplement or more tests, be suspicious and ask for scientific evidence.

There really is no substitute for doing a thorough and systematic Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Elimination Diet and challenges, preferably with an experienced and supportive (both!) dietitian.

Do it once and do it properly and then you will know for sure what affects you is my motto and then you can eat failsafe or explore other avenues from then on with confidence - Howard.

A dietitian’s response:

A positive IgG test results just indicates that person has been exposed to that food. It does not give reliable information about whether the person has an allergy to that food, and it certainly doesn't reliably determine food chemical intolerance (which is not caused by an immune system pathway) - Melanie Reid

Another response:

Those I know who have had IgG testing done - it was a waste of money. Gave both false positives and false negatives, which they didn't realise until after years of avoiding around 100 foods while symptoms continued (although to a lesser degree). In fact, I know of someone who ended up in hospital after IgG testing told him his long-term allergy was actually safe. It wasn't - Tracy Gaze

Last words from two parents:

I had IgG food intolerance testing done. It came out saying I was sensitive to egg white and beans, but nothing else. I have never reacted to these foods and yet an elimination diet has shown I have major intolerances to salicylates, amines, glutamates, preservatives, dairy, gluten & environmental chemicals. My conclusion is that intolerance testing is a waste of time - Bron

In my opinion it is a waste of money and the only true test is an elimination diet - Jennifer.

   Q: Are essential oils failsafe if they have been tested free of salicylates?

A: Essential oils are NOT failsafe, based on clinical evidence. Some essential oil products have been tested to be free of salicylic acid BUT with food intolerance, when RPAH say "salicylates" they use this as shorthand for a wide range of ring compounds to which they have found people reacting. Every food consists of many hundreds of chemicals and nobody could isolate exactly which chemical is causing the food intolerance reaction. We understand that RPAH have simplified their findings by lumping together those foods which people react to which usually contain salicylates. Not very exact, but a useful tool when it comes to deciding which foods. In this case, older and less exact methods of chemical analysis are more useful than more specific analyses. See more https://www.fedup.com.au/factsheets/support-factsheets/fumes-and-perfumes and https://www.fedup.com.au/factsheets/additive-and-natural-chemical-factsheets/inhaled-salicylates

Some years ago we spent a considerable sum on salicylate analyses through an Australian laboratory and found that the results did not coincide with those from RPAH results, which were based on a more difficult form of testing. At that stage we stopped, but the fact is that the RPAH elimination diet and challenges WORK based on considerably clinical evidence, whereas we have yet to know whether liberalisation based on these new analyses will work for food intolerances.

If you have done a thorough elimination diet and challenges and are thus certain that you react to salicylates, we would be very interested to know whether you can tolerate any essential oil in genuine salicylate-free form. It wouldn't mean that others can tolerate it, but it would be useful information.

     Q: Would it be possible for the Food Intolerance Network to 'crowd fund' some laboratory testing into the chemical content of untested foods? 

A: We did spend more than $4000 from book sales one year on testing. The laboratory claimed to be able to test for salicylates but not only did their results not line up with existing results, their tests on new products were all over the place as well. So we stopped. RPAH has a lot of data based on clinical experience that leads them sometimes to classify foods as higher, for instance, than an analytical result would suggest. This real-world experience seems better than a laboratory result because salicylates are really just markers for a great range of different plant chemicals. I suppose in some way we are crowd-sourcing information on kale, for instance, through the Food Intolerance Network rather than seeking money for tests.

      Q: Is failsafe eating cheap or expensive?

A: Many people tell us that failsafe eating is far cheaper because you are eating a lot less processed food.  The foods are not exotic but the ordinary foods which our grandparents ate.

The sky-high costs of processed food were starkly shown in a fascinating article by nutritionist Rosemary Stanton and Christina Pollard Why bad food is good for business.

Look at the dollar cost of nutrients per 100g



It makes business sense to load good foods up with cheap sugar and cheap fats and sell it as diluted food, but the real costs are transferred to the health system for which we all pay. Look at the margins for adding a little bit of “magic” fruit!

       Q. How can I stick to the diet at a wedding? I have tried to explain to my daughter who is getting married that I only wanted plain veges at the wedding, but she doesn't understand my food sensitivities.

A. It would be best to contact the caterer directly. They are usually understanding for allergies, gluten and dairy avoidance, although less so for food intolerance.

Problems at school

      Q. How do you stop a child from lunch swapping? I have one of your books and have had amazing results with my 9 year old son since putting him on a low chemical diet. My problem now is keeping him on it. At school he eats food from his friends every day, and says it is too hard to resist. I have spoken to his teachers, but they say there are too many children to watch and it is his responsibility not to eat food from his friends. His extremely difficult behaviour has returned and I am at a loss as to what I can do to keep him on his diet.

A. One mother wrote 'when I found out that my son had been lunch swapping at school I reviewed his lunch box and bought your Cookbook - now he is getting enough interesting things and variety so he feels that he is not missing out!'

You can also offer rewards - see Chapter 10 of Fed Up “How do you get a difficult child to eat failsafe”. Or join an email support group to discuss this problem with others with the same problem.

      Q. How can I help my just five year old ADHD son in the playground?

A. One mother wrote:

My just five year old son has problems in the playground. Typically he won't eat his sandwich or whatever and goes off to the senior playground - preps have their own so I have come up with a plan to assist my son with his diet and the playground dilemma. We live straight across the road from school and I work three minutes’ drive from home, so I am going to take an hour for lunch and bring him home for lunch everyday. I can then make sure he eats and I can actually cook him lunch, so that beats the boring sandwich problem. It will help him by not being around kids eating brightly coloured prepackaged food and coming home for lunch is a treat. It will also help me to take some time out from work which can be extremely stressful at times and I love coming home for lunch, especially having something cooked. We may even invite a classmate occasionally to help him form friendship bonds - he can relate to and play well with other children much better in a controlled environment).

Playgrounds are terrible places for kids with food intolerance. When my children attended a small supportive private school, the library was open at recess and lunchtime for kids who do better in small, quiet controlled environments, and for one marvellous year an exceptionally talented teacher opened her classroom for lunch, allowing students to use classroom resources including books, computer games and board games. Having a ‘withdrawing room’ option to the playground would be one of the most supportive steps schools could take for kids with food-related behaviour, health or learning problems.

      Q. How can I get cooperation about the diet from my son’s school? My son’s teacher and I had a verbal agreement that he would not give my son any food or drink. Well, last Friday he gave my son a piece of chocolate cake and said ‘don't tell your mum’ but my son told me, ‘I'm not going to bother lying to you mum, because I know you can tell when I've had something just by looking at my eyes’.

A. This is how one failsafer achieved a high level of cooperation from her school:

Last year I wrote an article in the school newsletter called 'Please don't feed my child!' It paid off, as parents are still approaching me to talk about it. I feel that my son and I are now being so well supported within the school community, it is amazing. I really wasn't sure what reaction I would get from the article, but it has certainly brought the issue to the fore and has got a lot of people thinking. – see story [575]

Perhaps you could tell your own story in your newsletter in a similar way, or ask your school to reprint story 575. Or get your son’s teacher to watch the first ten minutes of our DVD – some parents have found this makes a huge difference, see more in our Schools Factsheets.

      Q. Is it possible to get better food into school canteens? I was so impressed by the change in my son's behaviour just by going failsafe that I would like to lobby his school to change the foods sold from the canteen – they have a terrible list (party pies and choc donuts).

A. I would love to hear more about the canteen list at your son’s school – are they selling anything with artificial colours? You can see our Schools factsheets including school tuckshop suggestions and our campaign Fed Up with School canteens,

      Q. Is there a brief introduction to food intolerance on a card I can give to parents? On a recent supermarket visit - as is so often the case - there were parents with young kids "acting up" in one way or another. On these I would dearly love to engage the parents in conversation and tell them about your discoveries but I know they’re stressed. So, it just occurred to me that if I had a few cards, or wallet-size fold-out things, giving a quick intro and the side-effects experienced by so many, and the address of your web site, it would be far easier to just accost parents and hand them one and say "Just read this when you've got some time, I think it might help you".

A. You could try our yellow magnifying cards with our web address plus names and numbers of additives to avoid - the advantage is that they look like business cards, easy to hand out. See photo on the front page of the website. Or if you’d like something free with more information, you are welcome to copy our blue brochures.

      Q. How can we stick to the diet while on a trip to the USA? After attending one of your seminars about 4 years ago we have managed to change our now 15 year old daughter’s life by eliminating preservatives, colours and flavours. We are travelling to the USA shortly and we feel that the issue of her eating will be a problem both on the flights and on the ground in America.

A. We took our teenagers around the world, including the USA, in 2001. You can see the full story.Australian failsafers often join the failsafeUSA group for a few months before their trip (email with subscribe in the subject line to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). You can see a list of failsafe foods in the USA in the Failsafe Shopping List under General.

My recommendation about traveling is to cater for yourself whenever possible. For flights, take your own food. I always pack lots of sandwiches – e.g. an entire packet of rice cakes with cream cheese and finely sliced celery (or cucumber if you can manage moderate salicylates or pear jam) plus raw cashews and other failsafe snacks. If you happen to find any food in airline meals or airports that you can eat, regard that as a bonus. In airports, you can often ask for a milkshake/smoothie with nothing but banana (or real mango) and milk. Stay in places that have cooking facilities and cater for yourselves e.g. a campervan or in the US you can usually arrange to have a microwave in your motel room for a small extra fee. Failsafe travel stories from readers are welcome: email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

      Q. How can I get detailed information about allergens in products? Is there an Australian book covering natural substances and their derivatives and extracts etc like milk, casein and eggs. I have been shocked at how little help you receive in Australia for an allergy as long as it's ‘legally’ listed as a number.

A. For information on a range of food allergens including milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, etc see the Food Allergen Cards available from www.allergyfacts.org.au; also see the comprehensive Allergy Free shopping list (nut, egg, milk) on the RPA website at http://www.slhd.nsw.gov.au/rpa/allergy/resources/allergy/allergenfreeshoppinglist.pdf.

      Q. Our paediatrician refuses to consider diet for behaviour - what can I do? He has basically said that my son has ADHD, but he is not into foods as a cause.

A. You can do the diet by going directly to a dietitian (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for our list of supportive dietitians). If there is no supportive dietitian near you, some mothers have achieved miracles with their children just by using my books, or the Failsafe Booklet and the Failsafe Shopping List. You would probably find it helpful to join one of our email support groups.

      Q. What's involved in being a support person? I've notice that country Victoria is not represented and the way people treat you when you try and discuss issues with them. Our local Bakers Delight has been wonderful with their assistance but supermarket shopping takes hours. I'm sure I could get a few families together.

A. Thank you for your offer. We prefer contact people to have followed the elimination diet for at least three weeks under the supervision of a dietitian if possible; to have completed at least two challenges including salicylates; and to have belonged to an email discussion group for at least a month if possible - although we do realise that not everyone can do this. There are big benefits in failsafe families getting together to organise foods such as sausages, treats, dietitian and other health professional recommendations or support in schools. Everyone does it differently. Some people run meetings, or local email groups, or offer telephone or email contact. If you'd like to be on the contact list, send me your email address or phone number and I can refer people to you (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

      Q. How can I talk to other families who are doing diet? All the people I know give their ADHD children medication and I feel so alone.

A You can join our email discussion groups or facebook page (Sue Dengate’s Failsafe Group). Parents also find our DVD very supportive due to interviews with families – if you don’t want to buy it, you can try your library. Also check our Fedup Roadshow program to see if you can attend one of our talks – the Adelaide talks in particular are more like a Failsafe Expo (thanks to local contact Bron who does an amazing organisational job) but you can usually find a group of failsafers to chat with.

      Q. What exactly is confrontational parenting/teaching as mentioned in the list of common mistakes? I was shocked to see this in your list as I'm afraid may well be me and at present, my son's teacher. I thought we were doing so well with the diet, he seemed to be much better at home however, his midyear report showed a worsening in behaviour and the comments were fairly destructive. I feel I am missing something and this may be it.

A.. When children are oppositional and defiant, a negative, angry cycle of arguments, screaming, prohibitions, criticism and punishments can become almost the only way in which parents or teacher and child relate. They bring out the worst in each other. The key rules of managing oppositional behaviour are to remain calm, to avoid conflict and confrontation, to avoid backing children into a corner and to emphasise rewards and positivity. Parents or teachers may need advice on how to break the cycle by finding areas of common interest - for example, a father may invite his son to go fishing with him and discover his son enjoys it. This can provide a warm and enjoyable experience shared by both as a basis for change. This is much easier to do once diet has been implemented successfully, but you still have to take the steps to reverse the cycle. An authoritarian teacher who seems to be "picking on" your child can ruin the effects of the diet at school. Sometimes a change of teacher or school is required. For children under 13 the "1,2,3-Magic" video can help https://www.youtube.com/user/123MagicParenting

For older primary and teenagers, the Lavoie video "When the Chips are Down" is excellent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vsl_XiyJupgYou can see more about all this in my book Fed Up – it really is worth reading. If you don’t want to buy it, try your library