[798] 2 years of behaviour problems related to unlisted artificial colour in fluoride tablets (June 2009)

On August 27 2008 we emailed you some information following concern about the ingredients of a certain brand of fluoride tablets 0.25mg. Our daughter, now 6 yrs, has been taking this particular brand of fluoride tablets for the past two years or more, following a recommendation by our dentist. Please note that our daughter has always had good healthy teeth and was only recommended them since we live in an area that has a non-fluoridated town water supply. The tablets by the way were sold by the same dental surgery.

We have been involved with your network for some time now, whilst trying to overcome our daughter’s intolerance to the numerous additives found in foods and other products. Although we have worked with a dietician and followed all the recommended advice in relation to elimination diets and food challenges, we never seemed to achieve the results we hoped for.

It was only a fortnight ago that it occurred to us to check the ingredients of the fluoride tablets. There was no information on the actual bottle and no information available on the manufacturer's website, so I called their Consumer Information Service. I requested they forward a list of ingredients to me, to which they promptly refused, stating such details were confidential for ‘proprietary reasons’. Only through sheer persistence was I able to get the ingredients list ... it was not sent to me, it was read out over the phone.

I was initially given the colouring agent as CI 15985. I complained that this number was used within the industry but not widely known by consumers. They reluctantly told me CI 15985 was also known as FD&C yellow. Further prompting was required to get the equivalent term Sunset yellow. Finally they told me Food additive 110 is also another name for it.

We can see we had been making a huge mistake and stopped the tablets immediately. Over the past two weeks we have seen our daughter’s behaviour and learning abilities progressively improve to the point where she is a different little girl; happier, more co-operative and less oppositional.

We are now very angry that we mistakenly trusted a recommended pharmaceutical product that effectively has contributed to diminishing our daughter’s general well being.

Since the launch of the Kids First Campaign calling for the phasing out of additives such as 110, I was curious to find out if I could get the same information from the manufacturer and called their Consumer Information Service once again.

This time I was not so successful. I asked the representative where I could find information about the tablets on their website. I was pointed to another website which listed the product (copy of page supplied) but still no declaration of ingredients. When questioned, she replied that the tablets do not contain sugar or alcohol. I told them I needed a full list of ingredients to be emailed to me. Only after much persistence and placing me on hold to check with her ‘colleague’, did she take my email address, agreeing to forward the information I had asked for.

She also asked me for a contact number should the need arise. Sure enough, about two hours later I received a call from the representative, informing me that she had since been advised by her ‘supervisor’ she was not allowed to send the information after all.

Next I asked to speak to her supervisor. I asked the supervisor why the representative was told not to send the information after saying that she would. The supervisor replied "oh she's just new here and didn't know." The supervisor went on to say that their product is listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration and they are not required by legislation to reveal the ingredients. After pursuing that matter further with her I was informed the only way to get the information is to go to a GP or a registered health professional who can then request the information from the manufacturer direct. She informed me that our GP could request the information by writing to her (the supervisor).

Despite the fact that we were able to source the ingredients in the first instance and have since stopped using the tablets, there is an underlying major issue that clearly needs addressing. As parents we are continually battling to find out the necessary information about such additives and preservatives to ensure the health and well being of our children, only to find that manufacturers hide behind terms such as ‘proprietary information’ or ‘trade secret’. I hope you find this information equally disturbing. I would like to know what we can do to evoke change in the regulations around the labelling of food and medicines. – Darren, Vic