We started the failsafe diet in May 2002 after advice from a friend and it has had many interesting 'side effects', all of them good. We have had the usual wonderful behavioural changes in all members of the family and I don't know if any one else has reported this but if I stay 100% failsafe my acne rosacea goes (the scars don't but makeup covers them). I have taken many drugs for over the last 15 years for this condition and now I find that all forms of dairy give me pimples and cysts while flavour enhancers start up the vein ridden, red and sore rosacea. I am 34 now and don't want to look hideous in public any longer.- Viv, ACT

I have an aspirin intolerance and it took me ages to work out that my chronic mouth ulcers were being caused by beta hydroxy acid in my face cream because it is easily absorbed through the skin.- by email

Our son was bouncing off the walls for days after two doses of Dettol within 3 days (one from preschool, one from Nanny). Of course when I told nanny and the teacher, they both did well to humour me and to contain their disbelief. My sister - a pharmacist - sent me the chemical breakdown and the pharmacists' notes, it read like this:

Ingredients: Active: CHLOROXYLENOL (chlorinated antiseptic) Inactive: ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL (antiseptic) ETHANOL (handwash contains tartrazine). Contra-indications: not recommended to bath infants up to nine months because of the inability of the infant to detoxify chloroxylenol and benzalkonium chloride. Precautions: Can cause skin irritations.

In the individual breakdown of each of the ingredients, there were also references to medical journal cases of poisoning (i.e 'severe Dettol poisoning'); this warning about Isopropyl alcohol 'the lethal dose by mouth is reported to be 250ml, however toxic symptoms may be produced by as little as 20ml'; this one ' Inhalation of isopropyl alcohol vapour has been known to induce coma' and this is my favourite 'Application of Isopropyl alcohol to the skin may cause dryness and irritation; suitable precautions should be taken to prevent absorption through the skin'.

My sister also gave me a word of advice in dealing with those doubting Thomases who think that absorption through the skin is a load of rubbish. Nicotine and hormone replacement patches work! - Kelli from the discussion group

During the holidays we had been watching American settler re-enactments on TV and my eldest daughter said 'we could do that easily'. So we decided to do our own pioneer re-enactment in the week before school went back.

As we live on a family farm, we still had a lot of pioneer stuff about so perhaps we were able to go about it in greater detail than most.

A day's program was: get up at 6.30 am, collect wood and start a fire outside to cook on. Cart water from the rainwater tap to a basin in the bathroom for washing hands and self (with Velvet soap only). Another bucket of water for tea and cooking was carried into the house. While the kids fed the chooks and geese, I cooked scones in a camp oven and boiled the billy. Once the scones were cooked, I dropped eggs in the camp oven to cook in the remaining heat. We used homemade butter and golden syrup on the scones and salt on eggs, because pioneers didn't use flavourings such as pepper, herbs or tomato sauce. After breakfast we washed up with Velvet soap (rinsing well), first dishes, then face and hands. Teeth were brushed with an index finger dipped in seasalt.

During the day we hand-sewed bread flour bags with cotton from the tops of rolled oat sacks into place mats and embroidered them. We spent one whole day washing clothes and sheets with Velvet soap and Lux flakes in a copper heated by a fire outside, hand wrung and hung on a rope line between trees.

We also baked biscuits in the camp oven from a family recipe given to my Grandmother. She would be 110 now if she was still alive.

Mrs. Cattle Biscuits: 8oz SR flour, 1 egg, 4oz sugar, 3oz butter. Mix all ingredients and shape into small balls, put onto tray and bake in a moderate oven for 10 to 15 minutes. For variations, mix in coconut or put an almond or a drop of jam on top or add cocoa to the mixture. This mix was also pressed in trays and covered with golden syrup and crumble mix on top and cut into slices before cool.

For lunch and tea we ate fresh chops or chicken (dressed that day) with Laucke bread baked in the camp oven and vegetables which were growing in the garden at that time (silver beet, parsley, carrots, potatoes, shallots) or poached eggs on toast. I cooked the chicken in golden syrup and water then after the cooked chicken had been removed from the pot, we cooked golden syrup dumplings in the water. They had a fantastic flavour.

We removed all plastics from the kids' rooms (such as Barbie and bits), leaving them with only a chair, desk, beds, four books, paints (not acrylic dry blocks), pencils and a skipping rope. Their clothes were two sets of simple dresses and jumpers made from cotton or wool, leading to a complaint that they were 'dumb things to wear carting water on cold mornings, Mum, give me jeans.'

We ate at night by candlelight and played old board games. We played my daughter's Suzuki violin CD over and over as the pioneers only had one record. We gave the kids a torch for going to bed as they had not lived with candles and we felt it was not safe.

The result was amazing. The kids became more agreeable and instructions didn't have to be repeated until shouted to get a response, which had happened frustratingly too often before our Pioneer Week.

My youngest became less grumpy and the eldest less fragile and teary. Both stopped being picky eaters and ate with relish. The eldest's singing which was usually flat became tuneful because her hearing improved. They anticipated and showed more thought about what they were doing instead of being 'Tigger with Rabbit worries'. Life became gentler at home. The background frustration and noise decreased a lot and they took on new things faster. This change persisted for a while after school started then reverted as we reverted to our original diet.

I was diagnosed with salicylate/amine/additive intolerance 20 years ago, so I have never had a diet full of additives or the rest. But as the kids were getting older, I was bowing down to peer and social pressures, arguing in my head that their bodies were bigger so could handle additives better. I was wrong. We are now doing the elimination diet after two weeks of a take-away, additive binge, to make sure of all our symptoms. The kids are loving it and it is easier than the pioneer week because we use modern conveniences such as electricity and running water. A modified Pioneer Week would be a fun introduction to the elimination diet which sounds ominous and is not the current retro trend. - Rosy Hill, South Australia

A bad case of Glandular Fever triggered my CFS, which resulted in two miserable years of bouncing from one medical practitioner to another trying western medicine and other alternatives such as acupuncture. The responses were often unsympathetic and showed a complete lack of understanding about the condition.

It was through a recommendation from the CFS society in Melbourne that I saw a failsafe allergist.

It took nearly three months on a very strict elimination diet before I felt my old self again and the glands in my neck no longer felt like golf balls. It wasn't long after the three months that I was back working in the outdoors. With hindsight the recovery was remarkable after spending so long with little to no energy.

The nature of my work made it very difficult for me to effectively reintroduce all foods so I am still unsure of all the chemicals that affect me. However, MSG is a shocker!! as are most preservatives. When I start feeling the CFS symptoms coming back I put myself back on failsafe.

Despite a careful diet I still need more sleep than most people (9 - 10 hours a night) to function effectively. I rarely drink alcohol, this makes the CFS symptoms worse and I seem to be very sensitive to strong smells such as deodorant and perfume. I definitely feel better when living outdoors.

Without a doubt, going failsafe saved me from years of depression and frustration. I never take my good health for granted after being so deprived of the lifestyle I love. - Amanda, Melbourne

Further to Karen finding out recently that white Panadol tablets contain a preservative, I have done some investigating and was horrified to find that the brand at the hospital that I work at, Febridol paracetamol, has sulphite preservative in it. This could be a problem for asthmatics admitted to the hospital! Many other brands I looked at also contained sorbates and benzoates as preservatives. Herron tablets are colour free, gluten free and preservative free (see Failsafe Shopping List and Medications factsheet) - from the failsafe group

Our latest mistake was when our son was given a "special treat" of a glass of orange juice by his well meaning grandparents. Aaaaaargh. I have noticed since then his speech has gotten worse, but improves once we give him some bicarb soda (mixed with golden syrup) as an antidote. We noticed his speech worsened when we did the salicylate challenge. The speech problems come into play when he is hyper, which is days 1-2 post salicylate and slowly improves from there. - by email

I am in the failsafebasic and failsafe2 email support groups. Joining was certainly the best thing I ever did because I know I am not the only one struggling with my daughter. She has improved immensely since we started the diet. When I looked over her old diet (Dr Feingold's), I realise that it is really only halfway there, which explains why sometimes she reacted and sometimes she didn't. - failsafe mother from Sydney

I am a chronic migraine sufferer. MSG is one of the big ones for me (triggers migraines and rash) and almost every major food company feels a need to use this in their products - Maggi is the main offender with others, eg Trident, not lagging too far behind. Why are these in our food if they are harmful? - John, by email

We started our salicylate challenge on a Sunday. By Monday afternoon, my son was climbing the furniture more than normal and told me he felt silly. He was very giggly. On Tuesday afternoon he was again climbing the furniture and not responding to me when I talked to him. He was very happy and giggly again and it was actually kind of nice. His writing has improved so much lately, I was astounded when we sat down to do his homework and he started writing badly again. About 75% of his letters were backwards and he couldn't work out how to spell easy words. This is what really shocked me and what will make me avoid salicylates. When he got dressed he even put his clothes on backwards! - failsafer, by email

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. - by email, NSW

My son was diagnosed with borderline ADHD and we have him on a colour and preservative free diet. It has made such a difference. It is nice to have other people comment on his behaviour in a positive way now. Before he couldn't sit still in church for the first part of the service before going out for Sunday School but now he happily sits still. - Jennie, NSW

We want people to know that we feel sorry for anyone who tries to do the failsafe diet without the Failsafe Cookbook. - group of mothers from the Brisbane Kettle Club at a recent failsafe talk

My son is going well, although it was a bit rocky for a while until the vanilla ran out. He had been helping himself to lashings of vanilla essence in his cereal, drinks etc. Once the vanilla ran out he was back to being wonderful - such a little thing and such a big impact - a very big difference between the two allowable drops, and his great sloshes!! - by email, NSW

When I was around 4 years old I had quite severe behavioural problems, so my mum went from doctor to doctor looking for a possible solution. Eventually one doctor suggested the Feingold diet. I started the elimination diet in 1986, and my parents found an immediate improvement. One day my grandparents gave me red cordial which pretty much confirmed the effects of food additives. My parents and I found that I reacted to salicylates, and lots of artificial colours and flavours.

I went from a kid who everyone said would grow up to be a juvenile delinquent, to a better behaved kid who is now 21, studying for an Information Technology Bachelors degree. I also finished a 12-month employment contract not long ago and started a new job.

I'm surprised that it's only recently that people have been talking about the link between food and behaviour. - Danny, student

We discovered failsafe over a year ago when my son Liam was four. Ironically, because of the failsafe internet support group he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome a while later. He used to hate loud sounds and either shut down, cringing in a corner with his hands over his ears, or more often, he rose above it with the most aggressive behaviour and loudest noise he could muster. One time I had the blender on for one minute and he screamed and threw a chair across the room, quietening down as soon as I turned it off. This has dramatically reduced now. It was not instantaneous with the introduction of diet but somewhere in the course of last year it improved. I have found that this is the improvement which most intrigues other parents of autistic kids. Liam still doesn't like loud noises such as fire alarms but he is content to hold his hands over his ears.

For Liam, the diet has been like unfogging his brain and allowing him to catch up where he is delayed, mainly socially and in his emotions. But the most interesting thing was watching his drawing develop. When he first started Kindy, he drew like a two year, all scribbles. After he started the diet, his drawing just took off and in a matter of months we watched him improve to above his age level. Literally every week there were new dimensions. It was so exciting and a very visible reminder of how the diet now allowed him to develop.

Liam is gluten, dairy and egg free as well as failsafe and he has soy only once every four days. I could not say he is perfect, but he is light years ahead of where we were. - Caroline (finb and Failsafe discussion group)

I am a mother of three kids - 8, 6 and 3 years of age. This year has been so stressful at school for the older two boys; they have been in constant trouble for misbehaviour in the classroom and schoolyard. Until last week, teachers and I just didn't know what to try next.

Last weekend I was desperate. I pulled your books (and Friendly Foods) off the shelf, started cutting out additives and bought Woolies unpreserved bread.

The difference has been remarkable - at home and at school. Teachers and the deputy principal are most impressed at the difference a change in diet has made in less than one week. I intend going the whole way to 'failsafe' foods, then challenging suspect offenders one by one. Thanks for your help and wonderful work, life as a mother is worth living again! - Barb, Qld (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

I am 58 years old and came across your website by accident. I was dumbfounded when I saw the pictures of the effects of food additives 635. This was what I had for nearly 3 years!

I could not believe it. My symptoms too started in the early hours of the morning with dreadful itching. By the time I got up my thighs were black and bruised from scratching. Over time this went and welts came all over my body. I looked like I had been beaten. I also had rashes that were itchy and painful. The only part that was not affected was my face and head.

So many doctors and tests, so many creams and tablets - and nothing would stop it. I had tests that showed I was allergic to things I had never had, like horsehair and oysters. To top it off I started to get fungal infections in my fingernails. I had bouts of crying and wanted to die.

Eventually I was told it could be emotional or change of life. Then in June 2002 I started have rigors (uncontrollable shaking). I ended up in hospital, where I had every test under the sun including biopsies. My body was swelling up and I had blood tests every couple of hours. My temperature would not come down. I was seen by the elite of dermatologists and a professor of infectious diseases who told me that 'sometimes the body will not reveal its secrets'. They called what I had 'hypersensitive vasculitis' or a toxic shock from an unknown source. They said that I was at death`s door. Then my temperature went down and I was discharged.

It never occurred to me that it could be the food I was eating, as I hadn't changed anything. I would have meat pies or sausage rolls at least once a week and sometimes pizza. Eventually I cut out processed foods and now make my own sausages rolls. I still do not know which one started off this torment but I have thrown out everything in my pantry with 635/621 and my symptoms have gone away.

At the very least, these food additives should be listed in bold lettering or a different colour. - Maree, by email

Thank you for bringing this horrible food additive 635 to the attention of the media. Until the program on ACA, I had no idea that other people were suffering like me.

My problems started in July 2002, when I ate roast chicken that caused a dramatic rash to appear all over my body. I was sure the roast chicken was the cause as I had noticed on two previous occasions severe thirst and disorientation after consuming roast chicken bought from a Woolworths supermarket. On the third occasion I had the same symptoms plus the rash. The rash was so severe that I needed oral cortisone. Woolworths informed me that 635 was the sole flavour enhancer in the chicken. I saw an allergist about a month later who dismissed my view, saying that it was more likely to be a non-specific reaction that would eventually die down and disappear.

I didn't subscribe to that diagnosis and decided to stay away from roast chicken for my health's sake. I began to notice that it was affected by other commercially produced foods, including a salad dressing that contained 631. The rash usually starts on my upper thighs around my backside and travels down my legs. It also appears on my back and shoulders. At its worst when it first appeared it was also on my face and torso. The welts were large, covering a wide area, very hot and maddeningly itchy.

The most disturbing aspect of this situation is that 635 is being used in takeaway foods and restaurants. The consumer has no way of knowing that 635 is present in the food. I am beginning to avoid all commercially prepared food. Can you believe it? Imagine if I became anaphylactic to this substance. I recently attended a wedding reception and cautiously ate the three-course meal provided, avoiding the gravy on the meat, only to find the rash reappearing by the time I got home. Another disturbing symptom that has only accompanied the rash twice (the second time was early last Sunday morning after the reception) is a very strong feeling of ‘knotting’ in my oesophagus. It is similar to the feeling of eating a lot of food too quickly and having to wait for it to travel down. It comes in waves, like contractions, and I wonder whether it is the peristalsis of my oesophagus firing unnecessarily. It has woken me from sleep on both occasions and I find that it responds to taking an antihistamine.

I now religiously read the ingredients provided on packaged foods and have stopped eating Asian and Indian takeaway and takeaway pizza - Anna, NSW, 35 years of age.

I am writing to thank you for all the help your book 'Fed up with Asthma' has given my family. My daughter is two and a half years old, and was diagnosed with asthma when she was 10 months old. She was hospitalized with croup and later we were told she has asthma. She was put on a steroid puffer and I was told she would need this for most of her childhood.

I knew that food additives were not safe and I tried not to buy anything with 'numbers' on the back of the packs, which proved to be difficult. Still this didn't seem to help, I also put her on goats milk and took her off all other dairy products.

I took her to an asthma pediatrician, three months ago. He gave her an allergy skin prick test which came back totally negative. She was allergic to nothing! The doctor assumed that food was not a cause of her asthma. I was told that the cold winter nights were triggering her asthma, to go home and put her back on her steroid puffer.

This winter she seemed to get worse. As the cold nights set in, her coughing increased to the point that I was up every 20 minutes comforting her. I was desperately trying to keep her off the steroid puffer and I was about to give in, when I saw your book.

My daughter has now been on the failsafe diet for three weeks with amazing results. By the end of the first day she coughed only once, same the second day and the next two days nothing.

I've only made one mistake, when I gave her crackers which probably contained BHA (320) as a preservative in oil. At the time I thought they were failsafe so my daughter had quite a lot as a snack. That night she was back to coughing every two minutes and using her ventolin puffer. After 24 hours she was okay again and back on the failsafe diet.

I realise that we still need to discover other sensitivities but for now she can breath easy with no barking cough and we can both have a good nights sleep. If it hadn't been for your dedication to this cause I don't where we would be today. Thank you. - Joanne,  Perth Western Australia

I have worked out that my son's bad behaviour is all due to added MSG. He is OK on cheese and other natural MSG products - but give him a KFC chicken nugget packet and their chicken salt chips with the so called "secret herbs and spices" and you can see the reaction within 30 to 60 minutes. I'm not surprised as I get very similar reactions with MSG although my reaction is different to my son's behavioural reactions. I have Irritable Bowel and my reaction to MSG is to have a bad IBS attack. Sometimes I get an almost "high on drugs" feeling where my skin starts to crawl. - reader, email

I have 3 sons aged 7½, 5 and 2. The two older boys are very 'active' and display the type of behaviour that is evident in the emails from the other parents found on your website. Needless to say, I'm always on the go and have had a lot of trouble with my 5 year old who has just started school this year. Since I have found out about your website, I have changed the bread the boys eat and am trying to cut out all unsafe additives in their diet. Their behaviour has improved as a result of it. Thank You!! - reader, NSW

A couple of days after initially eating a meal my partner and I made using a recipe mix containing flavour enhancer 635, I broke out in a rash over my neck and upper torso. This quickly spread to the rest of my body the following day. The itch is unbearable, especially around my neck area, arms and breasts. The doctor didn't seem to believe that it could have been this enhancer, even after I showed her an article published in the Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun on 9 March 2003 entitled "Allergy hell in food additive".

It looks to me that there are many people who are intolerant to this additive and I believe it should be banned. This is the first time I have ever had a rash of this magnitude develop and I am not impressed. - reader, by email

I have never suffered any kind of food allergy in my life (43 years) and then about ten weeks ago I found myself suffering from an extremely intense and constant itch of my hands and arms. After two days of this I found I had come out in hives, starting on my upper chest, abdomen and back. It then spread to my arms and my legs and from then on each day might be different combinations of location of the hives, but always somewhere. They were worse at night causing intense itch and lack of sleep, I can't begin to tell you how unbearable the itch was and how it affected my everyday living and my ability to work. On several occasions my lips have been swollen and I find on occasion that although my upper lip doesn't look particularly swollen, it feels 'thick' and like I have been to the dentist. Once my eyelids puffed up too. Through studying the foods that I had eaten I became almost 100% certain that it was 635 causing my problem. For almost two weeks I avoided all foods containing this additive and was finally able to come off the antihistamines I had been forced to live on. I then ate a seasoned lamb steak bought from my local butcher and the next night the hives were back. Guess what? On contacting the butcher concerned, he was able to tell me that the seasoning used on those steaks contained 635.

I wish this product had never been put on the market. I'm sure it is what, to put it frankly, has caused me absolute hell almost continuously for over two months.

- Debbie, by email

My mother has "mature onset" asthma. We know she is super sensitive to sulphur in medications etc. but she remains in denial about changing her diet. - by email

Great News!! I have just finished week two of the elimination part of the diet and have found that I have gone from using my Ventolin at least once a day to not at all. I am still taking my preventative medicine tho and I still carry my Ventolin with me wherever I go. I have dined out a couple of times with friends but I have researched and am equipped for any situation! I love natural oysters so that is what I eat when I dine out with friends!! (with G&Ts). I am really looking forward to finding out which foods affect my asthma. - reader NT (so far, the salicylate and amine challenges have not affected her asthma, we'll keep you posted)

My second daughter (aged 7½), has always been the most 'difficult' one of my three children. Over the years we have had to put up with regular tantrums, defiance, rudeness and out of proportion reactions when things didn't go her own way. She also often complained of tummy aches and had little energy.

In early 2002 I read Sue Dengate's book 'Fed Up'. What I read described my daughter exactly. I discovered there is a name for her behaviour - oppositional defiance - and that it can be caused by intolerance to artificial or natural food chemicals. Our family decided to do an elimination diet using 'The Failsafe Cookbook' for guidance. We discovered that our daughter reacts severely to certain food colours and preservatives found in some breads and other food products. She also has an intolerance to natural food chemicals called salicylates.

The change in our diet has been enough to make a huge difference in our daughter's behaviour. She is now a happy, co-operative member of our family. She has a lot more energy and no longer overreacts when things don't go her way.

Asthma has also been a problem in our family. "Fed Up with Asthma" has given me the best information regarding asthma triggers and medications that I have ever read. Amazingly, in the six months since that we have been eating failsafe foods, no one in our family has suffered an asthma attack. - Alice, NT

I am the mother of an eleven year old asthmatic whose asthma is very well-controlled by avoiding certain food products. I have been caught unawares twice this month with flours containing sulphur dioxide. Both times the sulphur dioxide was not listed on the packet as it was under the necessary dosage to be listed, but within 12 hours of ingesting the product, my very well controlled asthmatic daughter started to wheeze and needed medication. Both times I rang the company who assured me the product did not contain sulphites, but when I pushed the company for more information it was revealed that in the processing, sulphites are added at the flour processing stage. Both times the products were labelled as 100% pure products.

This ingredient SHOULD BE LISTED, no matter how much is contained in the product. My daughter is obviously very sensitive. Traces of peanuts, eggs and dairy are now listed on food packages due to anaphylactic reactions of some children, why not for sulphur dioxide when it can also cause life threatening reactions? - Susan, NSW

I bought a basted turkey roll which we'd never never had before, and cooked it in the foil according to the manufacturers instructions. Near the end of the cooking time, I checked it and got some of the baste on my fingers. I gave my finger a lick after I put the turkey back in the oven. Within 10 - 15 minutes I had two hives on my right foot. I thought something must have bitten me. It wasn't until I started to eat the meal (I didn't even get all the way through it) that I realised they weren't bites. Within 15 minutes I had hives all over my body, my temperature was raised and I was very itchy.

I took Claratyne. The hives didn't get worse but they didn't go away. I saw the doctor the next day. He prescribed cortisone cream. I slathered my body with it every day but it took over a week for the hives to go away. At the time, I looked at the ingredients list on the turkey packaging but there were so many numbers and long words that I thought the culprit could have been anything. - by email

For the past 2 years and 4 months I have suffered unbelievably with the most horrific itchy rash and skin problems. I rated my rash as being chronic. It has been the most excruciating thing that I have ever experienced in my 65 years of life. I have been to so many doctors that I have lost count of them. Sadly no one has been able to help me, not even one of Adelaide's leading dermatologists.

Through the Current Affair program I have been able to work out that it is the additive 635 that has been my problem all this time. The pictures you have on your web site are exactly what I was like, plus on the days that I had really bad reactions - which was nearly every day - my whole face was puffy with fluid, burning
hot and extremely itchy, with prickling sensations and constant flaking skin, just like dandruff. I also suffered very swollen lips and badly swollen eyes with sacks of fluid under my eyes for a couple of days each time this occurred. My whole body was so inflamed that my skin was a constant clammy state 24 hours a day.

My hands have been extremely sore with splits all over them and like a fungus growth under all my finger nails, all of my fingers have had big gaping splits on them, some days it has been almost impossible to work because they have been so painful, my skin just seemed to split apart at any time.

At times it has been unbearable. It has cost me thousands of dollars in medical bills, lotions, tablets and bandages over the past two years plus.

I had no idea at all that it could be something that I have eaten all my life. As I do not eat a lot of red meat, chicken is my main meat source. Sometimes I would have it for two meals a day. Not for one moment did I ever think that it could be the chicken that I was eating that was causing such a serious rash.

I always purchased my cooked chickens from the same shop, so I asked them what they put on their chickens before they are cooked. They handed me a can of the product and there it was: 635. For the past nine days I have not eaten any chicken at all and the rash has disappeared completely. Although I am still having some itchy sensations during the day, I am happy to say that I have had two full nights sleep for the first time in over two years.

How can customers know that this dreadful product is being used on rotisseried chickens when there are no signs displayed in the shops stating that it has been used or no warning on the foil bags that they are put in when purchased?

I just hope that this can be brought out in the open for everyone to be aware of. I am certainly spreading the word to all that I meet, especially everyone who has seen me go through the past 28 months of agony. They are stunned. Everyone asks, 'how can the government possibly allow things like this to be used???'- Yvette, Adelaide.

I'm 50 years old. Although an eczema sufferer most of my early life, in the past 12 months I have on different occasions developed a rash worse than anything I have ever experienced with eczema.

I have been to dermatologists and allergists and found that I was severely allergic to the dust mite. In the past couple of months I changed all my bedding etc and have been free of rash.

On Saturday night I cooked apricot chicken. The welts on my body started to appear again on Sunday night. I finished the chicken for dinner on Monday evening not associating it with the rash. Last night I woke tearing my body to pieces. There were huge welts all over my torso, arms and upper legs. I was in a terrible state. It was two in the morning and I was sitting in my lounge room sobbing and distressed. I thought I had found the problem with the dust mite. This was however was something far worse.

I went into the kitchen and checked what I had eaten. I had read the article previously on food enhancer 635. I checked the Continental French onion soup packet that I had used in the casserole. There was no mention of 635. I was totally distressed and at my wit's end. I went back to the soup packet and checked again and saw 'flavour enhancer (ribonucleotides)'. I had kept the article on 635. I rushed to my purse and took out the article. There was the chemical name for
635 - the same as on the soup packet.

At least I now feel a little relieved to know what has been causing these periodic chronic outbursts of welts. I can try and avoid these foods.

The allergist I went to only a couple of months ago knew nothing of 635 until I told him of the article in The Herald Sun. He had tested me for everything else but not for 635. I am astounded that they are unaware of this problem. I have been going to doctors for the past 18 months, whenever I flared up. No-one could give me an answer.

This is nothing short of criminal that the Food and Health departments will not ban this additive. To tear yourself to pieces, with huge welts on your body is the most demoralising thing I have ever experienced. Obviously this had caused problems for me previously and had gone undetected. Not only do I now have to wait for the welts to die down, I have scratched up my skin so badly it will take weeks for that to heal. Surely big business should not come first over the health and well being of Australians. - Sue, Vic

I am a Canadian resident visiting Melbourne and writing to you because I believe I must have this reaction to flavour 635. A week ago I got a nasty itch on the side of my breast and by the next morning I awoke with it having spread and by the next day it had covered my chest, back and now my neck, ears, face and it is slowly making its way to my arms and legs. At first I thought it was the new laundry detergent, so I change it and rewashed everything I brought to Australia with me. It seemed to be slowing down until this morning when I awoke with far more on my face as the older ones got bigger and drier.

My boyfriend saw the bit on TV about 635 and realised it was in the instant noodles we ate just last night. This means I've got it all over again for another two weeks. I cannot believe this. I have never had anything like it except chicken pox! Now I'm sad because I am leaving in two weeks and not going to see my boyfriend for many months and I have to end my stay looking like a leper and feeling like I fell in a bag of fleas.

It makes me just as angry as the other people I've heard on this site because something like this should be immediately taken off the market. It hurts people, how can that allowed???? Good luck to all others out there with the itchy and scratchy syndrome ... - Claire, Canada

My daughter is nearly two. Ten days ago, she woke with a rash all over her torso. By that evening it had spread all over her body, including face, hands and feet, and she had developed a fever. At the local hospital, the doctor advised us she had a virus and it was not contagious. He suggested we give her Panadol four hourly to reduce her temperature and give Claratyne for the itch. During the next five days we gave her Claratyne but it did nothing to stop the itch. Her temperature remained up and we eventually gave up on the Panadol. We noticed that the rash seemed to improve during the day but flare up again in the evenings in certain trouble spots such as her back and around her nappy.

On day 5, after her evening bath, she went berserk when we tried to dress her. She was scratching madly and screaming non-stop – it took two of us to hold her down and get a nappy on her. After an hour of distress, she fell asleep but had a terrible night. She moaned in her sleep, and woke at 2.30am and screamed for half an hour, trying to pull her clothes and nappy off.

The next morning I took her to our GP. He was perplexed. He was trying to find some sign of infection to explain why her temperature was still up. He advised we switch to using Phenergan to try to control the itch. I gave her three doses of Phenergan that day, and yet the itching continued. That evening we had a repeat of the screaming and scratching frenzy. We ended up calling an ambulance. By the time the paramedics arrived, Freya had stopped screaming and was quiet.
One paramedic raised the issue of this possibly being an allergic reaction but was wondering if it was something to do with clothes detergent. The hospital staff had nothing more to offer.

The following morning we took Freya to see an allergy specialist. He advised us the rash was urticaria, and his belief was that she did initially have a virus and her body had an allergic reaction in response. He advised it could take up to two weeks for the rash to clear up completely. He said the only other explanation would be a food allergy, and that if there was no improvement over the weekend we should make changes to her diet.

On the weekend I saw the Herald-Sun article. When I mentioned it to the allergy specialist, but he discounted flavour enhancer 635 as a possible cause for Freya’s reaction!!! He said food additives do not produce a long lasting reaction like this … Well, I am not taking any chances. Now aware that 635 can cause the exact symptoms I have seen my daughter suffer during the past few days, I have reflected on her diet. The day before Freya’s rash first appeared, she ate something she had never eaten before: flavoured chips.- Tara, Melbourne

My 21 year old daughter came down with an allergic reaction on Christmas Day. She went to the doctor the next morning with this awful raised red rash all over her. He said 'it's only a reaction' and sent us home with over-the-counter antihistamine. As we were leaving she passed out but the doctor said it was only a faint. That night we had to take her to emergency at the hospital where they didn't know what it was either. She ended up staying in for 3 days and was on cortisone injections. She went to an allergy specialist who said it was a virus and did nothing. The hospital ruled out virus as they did all the tests. Thank you for your work. My daughter did eat turkey for Christmas dinner but I would never have dreamed it would be something in the turkey. It was so stressful not knowing what the cause was.

I would like to see something done as one day someone will die. I certainly wouldn't want my daughter to go through that again. - Charmaine, Qld

I began to suffer strange, itchy swellings about seven years ago and spent a lot of time and money going back and forth to my doctor to try to ascertain the cause and a treatment. As you guessed, he couldn't find a cause. I gave up asking and had to suffer in silence. I have consulted doctors only when the swelling occurred in my tongue and throat to such a degree that I was very afraid for my safety. These swellings have probably occurred on a two-monthly basis for several years, with some incidences being more extreme than others.

Since the article appeared in the Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun about 635, I have tried to be very careful about what I eat, and check, where I am able, that any foods I consume do not contain 635. I have noticed a reduction in occurrences, although one morning I woke up looking like Eddie Murphy in the Nutty Professor.

It was interesting to read that rotisseried chicken can be a culprit, as this is one thing I have eaten recently, before suffering an occurrence which I could not explain otherwise.

Thanks for getting the information out there. You may just save some precious lives. - Cathy, Vic

I am a 33 year old mother of two. I woke up one Sunday morning with an angry red blotchy rash all over my body and my legs were burning. I asked my husband to call an ambulance as I nearly fainted and felt like vomiting at the same time. A doctor put me on Prednisolone tablets for a week. I also took antihistamines and smothered myself in Calamine lotion but nothing seemed to ease the rash which turned to severe hives all over my body. I couldn't sleep and would be awake in the night clawing at my skin for some relief. I ended up bathing in Pinetarsol Solution which eased the itching. I was told that looking for the cause of the reaction was like "looking for a needle in a haystack" and I could not think of anything I had done differently. So to see your story on A Current Affair was fantastic. I am sure my reaction was from eating Continental Oriental Fried Rice packet mix on Friday night and also Saturday night for tea. I had a slight rash on my stomach on Saturday afternoon but it wasn't until Sunday morning that the severe reaction occurred. I checked my cupboards and 635 was also in Continental Macaroni Cheese as well. Thank you, and let's hope it can be removed from foods before someone has a fatal reaction.

I am 42 and live in Sydney with my husband and 2 children. My story centres around my son, Alex who is now 6 years old. Alex is a little toughy, one of those kids who is highspeed, enthusiastic, in your face, adventuresome etc (and that's with a positive spin on his life).

He was born 2 weeks early, but a big boofy boy at 4kg. For the first 6 months he was a wonderfully placid calm child. Feed well, slept well, grew well, didn't seem to cry - dream baby. (Apart from having chicken pox, bronchiolitis and 2 fits in this period he was healthy and strong - though perhaps these illness should have given me a clue).

At six months he suddenly became incredibly restless - people would comment on him being active and a real 'tiger' - Looking back 3 things changed at this time - he started solids, started formula and he started daycare. I also remember noticing his face change. He had had a beautiful round baby face with bright blue eyes, and when he started on solids he got dark circles and creases under the eyes, and his eyes turned green - I remember crying at the loss of my beautiful baby boy.

His first year in day care was diabolical. In a class of 15 babies, with 4 carers they could not cope with Alex. He walked at 9 months and spent his time running around the other babies (that were still immobile) snatching toys, jumping on the babies, shrieking, and escaping - he seemed incredibly bright and had the mobility of a child at least 6 months older. Every evening I was met with the litany of what he had done that day to terrorise the class. The carers always looked frazzled and worn out. Their only solution was to give continuous time out as a unishment - he spent hours every day in a cot that he eventually broke - at the time I lived through it thinking it must get better - in hindsight I see their approach as completely inappropriate - he was too young to be punished - it didn't help to modify his behavior, rather it set it in stone.

He continued through daycare being rough and ready, and some days violent - he found their order and routine hard to take. When he wanted to run in the garden, he had to listen to the story, when he wanted to keep painting, he was told painting time was finished - the structure and lack of freedom drove him mad. And this was a university based childcare with great facilities and high staff to student numbers!!

Our life at home was crazy as well. It was like living with Jekyll and Hyde. Sometimes he would be a delight, other days he would be totally uncontrollable - usually incredibly defiant - he could stick to his point hour in hour out - it was impossible to win an argument - normal parenting didn't seem to work. He also had a habit of making loud repetitive noises.

Going out was a nightmare - he would run away, run into traffic, swear at strangers, try to strangle other children, and on a really bad day would threaten to kill people. There were many times when I felt that I had a potential psychopath or serial killer on my hands. Another characteristic was that he couldn't be told anything - he always wanted to learn first hand.

Harm minimisation seemed to be the best policy - I taught him to cook, use knives safely, chop wood with an axe, use power tools etc at a very young age - on the basis that he was going to find and use these items anyway, no matter what I did to try and stop him. Although he had a few accidents (mainly burns from cooking) this strategy has meant that he is still alive.

At 3 we discovered he had asthma, and glue ear - he had his first set of grommets inserted and could finally hear. At that stage I thought the hearing was the answer to all his behavioral problems, and I am sure he must have felt better being able to hear (Since then we have had another 3 sets of grommets inserted). He also changed to a community based, child centred pre-school/school which was far better for him. They worked with what he wanted to do and let him learn and explore at his own pace. The other children were attracted to him in an odd way - they were always excited to see what daring deed or brilliant idea he had - he never lacked for incredible ideas or enthusiasm. Despite this, successful social interaction and aggression was still an issue, and friendships were dicey due to his unpredictability.

Another habit he had was ticcing - eye tics, snorting, touching other children, kicking - At 4 he was diagnosed with Tourettes by a paediatrican. (I followed up later with a neurologist who specialised in Tourettes who said that he was just a naughty boy who needed counselling).

I was also seeing the local health centre psychologist -but this seemed to be no more than a chance for me to talk - never really got to address Alex's needs.

Interestingly I found his behavior was always better in winter, and was diabolical by term 4 (I now think this is fruit related!).

By the end of pre-school several parents had started a petition to get him removed from the school - luckily I had the support of the teachers and many other parents and this was stopped dead in its tracks.

I noticed that there were several different levels to his behavior - what I think of as 'full on' and then 'psycho'. I noticed that he became psycho after certain drinks - being sceptical about colour related behavior I started to read the labels whenever he went truly demented and psychotic - of course you can guess what I found - 102 At the time I had no idea that other people knew it was bad - I just thought I had the only child in the world who reacted to yellow colour - particularly as the popular wisdom of the day all said that red colour was the problem. So for the last 2 years I have avoided 102 - this helped a bit - but not totally.

The local health centre's counsellor visited the school and reported that his behavior was Oppositional Defiant - first time I had ever heard of it. The solution was to maximise his 'good interactions' - so once again no real help, and leaving it up to me to be a better parent.

Alex started school at the same child-centred preschool/school last year - he had a reasonably good year but was chronically sick - temperatures, stomach aches, head aches. However as he is so hyperactive, he often didn't realise he was sick, and I had to fight to get doctors to look at him. For example, I took him to hospital with severe asthma/croup - however as he was running around casualty making chicken noises he was not seen to as a priority case - when they finally looked at him, his oxygen levels were dangerously low and he was gasping for breath.

Another time we sat in a waiting room, left till last as he was jumping on chairs (and apparently well) - when he was finally seen the doctor couldn't believe he was racing around - his temperature was 41 and he had acute tonsillitis and a ear infection. He also had a severe salmonella infection last year and was losing considerable quantities of blood, but because of his high energy levels I was told it was just gastro and I was exaggerating his symptoms - it was finally diagnosed as salmonella and he had 2 weeks off recovering - I now know that when Alex is sick I have to force doctors to look for the worst. While I know he is ill, to anyone else he seems too full of beans to be sick - time and time again the doctors have been surprised when some odd illness turns up (ie scarlet fever, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, to name just a few)

At the end of last year I took Alex to yet another pediatrician - this time about his health - after a year of infections and unexplained temperatures I was thinking that there was something seriously wrong - he took his medical history and noted his pallor, and dark circles under his eyes - and pronounced food intolerance!!!

In December I started him on the diet given to me by this doctor - we removed milk, honey, colours and preservatives - and were told he could eat fruit, vegies and only cold pressed oil.

So - no result - if anything he became worse. While I thank this doctor for pointing me in the direction of food intolerance, his diet did nothing to help. A family friend recommended your cookbook to my mum. Since then I have spent the holidays reading Fed Up, and the cookbook and going failsafe.

We have cut out diary, amines, salicylates, and all the artificial additives, colours, preservatives etc. My mum has been a fantastic support. She is making all the 'extras' ie: jams, mayonaise, biscuits etc. Without her I couldn't have achieved so much. She also rings up food companies and asks them to clarify what their ingredients are, and what type of oil they are using! We haven't taken out gluten yet - not sure whether it is necessary.

And Alex? It has taken a while, but by the end of the holiday he was so much better. He was able to play consistently with children without it erupting into a major argument. Parents and friends have noticed the difference. I have also noticed that he is now able to be disciplined. He can hear what I am saying and understands when his behavior is wrong and I can now win an argument.

Last week was the first week back at school - first day was fantastic and I received lots of comment about how he changed. Then he started cheating and eating roll ups, muesli bars, chocolate cake and sweets from his friends - by the weekend he was making repetitive noises, chatting constantly, being selfish, crying and was unable to control himself. He visited a friend on the weekend, who had seen him a week before in his good phase, and she couldn't believe the difference - she is now a convert to the idea of food intolerance. In her words it is like he is on a drug trip, and we all just have to wait for him to come 'down'.

So we are back trying to get him adhering to his diet again - he says he wants to - I just have to wait and see. I want to get him back to the point where we can try some controlled challenges!

And the rest of the family? None of us are totally failsafe yet, and are all cheating when we are out, but I believe we all have symptoms that warrant the diet. My 9 yr old daughter is incredibly artistic, but unable to read, and has temper tantrums, I suffer migraines, mood swings, arthritis and occasional depression. Interestingly, my daughter did some market research for a new hyper flavoured snack food a few weeks ago. She came home in an uncontrollable rage to the point that she was throwing herself around the house kicking furniture etc. I have never seen her like that before - and just think, those snacks are about to do that to all our kids - it's criminal. - reader, Sydney

My 8 yr old has been failsafe for two years but still had learning problems at school because of chemicals - paint fumes, carpets, cleaners etc. We started homeschooling in 3rd term last year but it took us a while to get used to it. I'm feeling much better about it this year. I have read enough now not to feel so stressed about my ability and to have faith that the children will learn given the right opportunities.

I have noticed a big improvement in my son in the last 6 months. His confidence and self esteem are much better and he is a much more relaxed person than when attending school. He has also made some developmental leaps so reading is starting to emerge and I'm hoping this year he will realise he is quite good at Maths.

I realise now that I spent a lot of time trying to teach him things he was not ready to learn. He seems ready this year to tackle the things that were being taught at school. We are now using unit studies which are a big hit and keep us busy doing lots of hands on learning. The only text book we use is for Maths.

- reader NT (See also factsheet Fumes & Perfumes)

My son aged 4 has been fully failsafe, dairy free and gluten free for six months. Last week we had a nutrition check with our dietitian. She entered all the foods he eats into a nutrition analyser on her computer. I was very pleased to find out that he is getting all the nutrition he needs from his food, and has no need to take extra vitamin/mineral supplements. - reader, WA

I discovered your book at the end of November 2002 and when I read the first page about Rebecca as a baby I thought 'OMG, change the name to Rhys and this is MY son'.

I read the book from front to back in 2 days and then we started the elimination diet with our 9 year old son.

He was a very angry child and was getting into trouble at school due to his behaviour and I was at my wit's end.

School has been back for 5 days now and Rhys's teacher from last year said to me yesterday 'Rhys is a different child, the change in him is absolutely amazing and I am seriously thinking about doing this elimination diet myself.'

I was on top of the world!!! I was happy for the rest of the day. When I picked Rhys up from school yesterday afternoon, the assistant principal said to Rhys 'I have been hearing very good reports about your wonderful behaviour, young man. I am very proud of you and very pleased with what I have been hearing.'

Rhys was stoked and so was I. We had seen the improvements at home but it meant so much to me and made me feel so good to know that the teachers at school see it too.

One teacher commented this morning 'If only we could get all parents to TRY this elimination diet then I think we would have a lot less troublesome kids'

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH SUE. I will forever be grateful to you and your books. And if you feel your ears burning occasionally it is probably because I am singing your praises to people. You really have helped us through a very difficult time when I didn't think I would cope. - reader, NSW

Having read your book and spent several months working through the challenges, we find our 2 year old (Zoe) is sleeping better and as an unexpected bonus is concentrating and managing her emotions better. - Bruce and Trina, WA

We have just had a month long 'hiccup' following a very fruity, fragrant bubblebath, given to our daughter for Christmas. - reader, WA

We have been following your Failsafe diet for 8 days now mainly for the benefit of son aged 7. He has difficulty managing his behaviour (and so, therefore, do we!). He has temper tantrums and can be extremely defiant. He is a lovely boy while things are going his way but if not, he turns into a monster. The Christmas holidays had been steadily getting worse and his poor behaviour reached a peak about 12 days ago. We spotted an article about preservative 282 in Wellbeing magazine and then went on to look at your website. We bought Fed-up and read it from front to back. We decided to begin the elimination diet and have had enormous success. His initial score on the test in the fed up book was 91 and a week later it was down to 26! We couldn't believe how polite and calm he was and he has been able to control himself really well. His teacher noticed a huge difference. However, last night we had one of the old tantrums return (the 'This place is horrible, I want to live somewhere else' sort of tantrum) and he again became very unreasonable and irrational and wouldn't listen to anything we had to say. This has happened again twice today. He really was 'freaking' out.

Could it be bubble bath? About an hour before the old behaviour returned, he had a bubble bath, ingredients : Water, Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulphate, cocamide DEA, Coco Dimethyl Amine Oxide, Sodium Chloride, Propylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Fragrance, Preservative, colours Red 22, Blue 1. Could this possibly affect him this way?

We have had such success and for one week we felt as though we were in family heaven and now it's gone straight back to how it was. We are truly terrified that we won't get this wonderful behaviour back again. He is so difficult to cope with and of course we always think 'Where did we go wrong?' This diet has worked miracles and I would be relieved to hear that the bubble bath is the likely culprit. - reader, Qld [Your son's reaction was most likely to the artificial colours in the bubble bath - Blue 1 is brilliant blue 133 S.]

I'd like to tell you what your diet has done for my son. He used to be on Ritalin. I talked with our doctor about you and how I was going to do the diet (our whole family is doing it). We felt the claims may have been a bit exaggerated but have some benefit possibly. So I thought 'I have tried everything else with Sam, I may as well give this a go. I have nothing to lose'.

WELL, within 2 days !!!!!!! my feral son DID in fact become an angel!!! just like - no, better - than on full medication with NO side effects and it has lasted. It has been two weeks now. I don't know yet what he is intolerant to until we start the challenges.

It's not as though we had an unhealthy diet. We used to check the labels for artificial food colours, preservatives and other additives because we already found out that made him ten times worse.

I'm excited about it. I never dreamed it would work SO well! We did put him on the medication for Sunday morning at church but that was the only bad time on the diet. He cried the whole morning till it wore off, so we won't be giving it to him anymore. He is so much better. I can't wait till his next appointment with our doctor - he wants to know the results. I will sing your praises. I have stuck to the diet like the Bible. None of us have compromised in anything, although I desperately crave pizza, Diet Coke and tomatoes and hope I'll get over that soon. - Lisa Footnote: So far, Sam has reacted to both salicylate and amine challenges.

I saw you on Today Tonight and realised that my daughter's mood swings could be triggered by bread preservative. As soon as she was off it, her moods stabilised. Ordinarily she is a very good student. Others have described her as an angel. It is when she eats considerable amounts of white bread she becomes snappy, and argues at the drop of a hat about some very trivial matters. - reader, Qld

My failsafe daughter has just been to stay for a week. When she said she would bring her own food and do the shopping and cooking, my husband said 'so what on earth will we be eating?' Well, by the end of the week he had not eaten anything unfamiliar. And in fact enjoyed more sweet things than I ever allow in the house. I'm off to buy your cookbook today. - by email

I have 2 sons one of whom, was diagnosed with borderline ADD in December 2002. After reading your book "Fed Up" we changed a whole lot of things in terms of eating and as a result this family has had a real turnaround. My son is getting into his school work with pleasure and already had a few astonishing results in terms of concentration, memory and especially handwriting which was a huge problem- by email

At the beginning of last year I was really desperate as my 8 year old was suspended twice in two weeks. I have to admit the school had good reasons for it. After a desperate search on the internet I found your site and that was the start of a whole new beginning. I just want to quote his teacher's comments in his school report that he received last term:

' What a different boy! ... He is now a happy and most cooperative class member who is beginning to make friends with others in the class. It has been a wonderful experience for me to see such an improvement'

There is nothing left to say than one more THANK YOU!!!! - by email

Thank you for your insightful and inspiring books! We have 3 children (2, 4, 6 yrs) and I have always been interested in their nutrition, and this is what made me pick up your book in the bookshop. Boy, I was blown away! I had no idea that additives could have the effects you described (I had always known about the obvious ones, like red or green cordials...) and I was very inspired to see what affect the elimination diet would have on our kids.

Well, the effect was instant! We haven't had any problems with ADHD or anything like that, but still, our kids just calmed right down! A few days after being on the diet, I had to take them all to the doctor (you know what that's like, waiting for an hour, three kids...) and they all just sat on the seats - didn't move! So I thought that was a fluke. The next day we all went food shopping ... they all just walked along nicely, the 2 yr old sitting quite patiently in the trolley. No bribes required, no
food and drinks and toys (or lollipops) etc needed. Wonderful! Everything seems to be like that now - we recently had a 14hr plane flight where I looked after the kids alone, and they literally just sat on the seats or slept! They were amazing and I was so proud of them.

This whole diet has brought out the wonderful child in our first born (who I've been aiming this at..), all her sibling rivalry and anger has literally disappeared! She comes home from school happy to see me (not the enemy) and talks eagerly about her day and spontaneously hugs and kisses etc (had been quite reserved and standoffish).

Your book has changed our whole family dynamics, and I can honestly say that I really love and enjoy our children so much now, when you take away the constant battles, discipline dramas, rivalry, moodiness, and tiptoeing around the eldest to try and keep the peace.

We have been on this diet for over 3 months and have started the challenges, and gee, when the anger and moodiness comes back, it changes everything to where we used to be! It's just not worth it!!! A peaceful and happy home, with happy children (and parents) is wonderful.

I just wanted to pass this on, that the diet makes a huge difference on just your average kiddies, with no diagnosed problems. Thank you! - by email

Thank you for spreading the word about poisons in our food. I'm a single mum from North Queensland. I have eaten calamari all my life with no problems whatsoever. But about two years ago I woke up one night to find myself very itchy with a body rash that covered me from the tips of my toes to the top of my scalp. The intensity of the rash and itchiness was so great that even a shower wouldn't ease the pain. I couldn't believe the reaction as I have never experienced anything even a quarter of this intensity before.

I was alone in the house with two children under the age of 4 and as I collapsed on the bed dizzy and short of breath, I blacked out. I remember waking perhaps twice and gasping for breath but I was so weak that I couldn't orientate myself to get to a phone to call an ambulance. I blacked out again and when I woke up several hours later the itching was still there but my breathing was a little better. I managed to drag myself to the shower and stayed in there for about an hour and a
half. The hot water ran out and I just stayed in the shower with the cold water running because to get out would mean I would start itching again. The rash took about 4 days to go away.

I have since tested this food on two separate occasions with a single calamari ring and had a similar reaction but with a milder effect probably due to the lesser amount eaten. I now avoid this food altogether although I really love it. It angers me to think that there could be additives in our food that cause such life threatening reactions and not only endangered my life but the life of my two very young children who would have been left in the house alone if I hadn't been able to wake up. It is just disgraceful!

- by email [What's in prepackaged, frozen calamari rings? This sounds like another reaction to flavour enhancer 635.]

Q. I have a 6 yo son who is very challenging (to say the least!). He is constantly moody and defiant. He has rages that are increasing in their intensity. He interrupts all the time, doesn't listen, can't recall requests soon after they have been issued and it's to the point that I can't stand being around this child. The word NO doesn't even seem to register with him. He has mild asthma and eczema and has had an operation for his nose which seems to be constantly blocked. He has steroid cream for the eczema, Ventolin for the asthma, spray for his nose and still no relief. He has even had skinprick tests done which came back allergic to house mould, dust mites and house dust. The doctor told me your research was " a load of hogwash" when I asked her about food intolerances ... I read your book "Fed Up" and instantly identified with practically everything. So, this is why I'm writing to you. Where do I go from here? Could you tell me who I can contact ...The doctors I go to don't seem to understand what I want to do. The trouble is, I think I need someone to say "Step 1 do this, step 2 don't do that" etc... Please help me.

A. There are dietitians who will supervise the elimination diet from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (we call it the failsafe diet) in most cities. Ask your local failsafe phone contact (see website), or ask me. Don't forget to say where you live.

My son (now nearly 4) was born early. He had lung problems which have led to recurring respiratory problems. We tried every kind of baby formula and ended up on soy formula. At nine months he had grommets in and adenoids out because of chronic glue ear. At eighteen months he had his tonsils out, at the time he was on three different types of antibiotics to keep him well enough to have the operation. His asthma is non allergic. This year he has done very well. Up until last week he had a clear run with only one lot of antibiotics up to date, and no asthma. I think that my problems started three weeks ago when I took my son off soy milk, because I heard that the oestrogens might have an effect on my boy.

To actually get him to drink cows milk I had to buy skimmed and put malted milk powder in it. It has taken three weeks for my son to turn into a monster and he has just had a dreadful week with his asthma - the first bout this year. Everybody else keeps telling me now he is a 'normal' boy. Two of my friends tell me that my son's behaviour is equal to that of their children and that is what they put up with all the time, and worse. I know they do. But I don't want to, and I have seen my son as a before and after. I want my old son back. Can you please tell me if there is any evidence that soy milk is so very damning, and detrimental to the health? Or perhaps point me in the right direction to find out more. Or suggest another alternative.

[For a scientific look at the effects of soymilk, see the link on my website to the Harvard Women's Health Centre. You will have to make up your own mind. Ricemilk is an alternative to cows milk and soymilk. It is best to buy calcium fortified if you can find it, or take a calcium supplement - you can ask your dietitian about nutrition.]

'I have Samter's Triad syndrome, also known as Aspirin Induced Asthma (AIA). About 10 per cent of people with Samter’s syndrome also get urticaria (hives) and/or angioedema (swelling of the lips, tongue, neck etc). Angioedema can be so severe as to cause death by suffocation, so it is considered a medical emergency.

'Samter’s syndrome may be acquired at any time of life although it mainly affects women who are in their 40s and starting menopause. When I was 15, I was given hormones for some female problems and within a week was deathly ill with constant coughing, wheeze, whole body swelling and hives. As my lungs were always filled with liquid they called it 'wet asthma'. It took years to figure out what was wrong with me but when they did, they concluded that the hormones threw
me into this by changing my body chemistry.

'I found out that I was allergic to aspirin from an anaphylactic reaction when I was 16. I did not require hospitalization but I was very ill for over a week. My mouth, face and eyes and lips all swelled inside out and I had asthma and hives. For the next 3 years, it was a constant life and death situation, being transported to the hospital too many times to count, unconscious and in respiratory failure. No one, not even the doctors knew what causing the problems as the asthma was so very different from common asthma. During that time, I was put on prednisone on an every other day schedule and had to quit school as the illness was completely out of control.

'When I was 18, I went into anaphylactic shock when I was given the wrong pain medicine (Darvon - containing aspirin) by accident. I took one pill and within 15 minutes was unconscious. I was in intensive care for a week, then in the respiratory wing for another week. During that time, I was given a gingerale soda and went into another anaphylactic reaction. That is when they figured out I was sensitive to salicylates in foods and yellow #5 dye and was diagnosed with what they called Triad Asthma back then.

'Since that time I have tried just about every low salicylate diet that the doctors or I could find. I know now they were not complete nor correct. I was ingesting many foods like broccoli, cauliflower and onions on a daily basis, under the impression that they were safe. I had what they called mini-anaphylactic reactions nearly every day and was put on prednisone, asthma medication and an antihistamine on a daily schedule to control reactions. Salicylates kept building up in my system until the daily prednisone wasn't stopping the reactions and I would end up in the hospital again.

'Looking back to when I first was diagnosed with this and after the anaphylactic shock, I was eating a little rice, very few vegetables, no fruits and mostly meat and drinking only water. I was too scared to eat much. That was the first time I was able to come off prednisone for any length of time at all. Then the dietitian said I was anemic and wanted me to vary my diet. So I started eating more fruit and vegetables. It wasn't very long till I was back on all the medications. I didn't connect that the foods I had added back in were the problem because they were listed as low salicylate on the list that I was given.

'For the last 29 years, it has been up and down, just trying to figure it all out, taking medications and trying to stay alive. I would rack my brains trying to figure out where I was going wrong but couldn't get a handle on it. And was having to take more and more prednisone and antihistamines.

'When I found the Australian salicylate lists I was so excited. I could finally understand what was happening. I was inadvertently eating salicylates every day.' - from the USA

I recently purchased some Gluten Free Plain flour from my supermarket and used it to make some bread. The ingredients are listed as soy flour, maize flour, tapioca starch. My daughter started wheezing ten hours later and when I checked the packet under the nutrient list is a very small note saying that sulphites have been added in the maize and tapioca starch processing. Thought you may like to warn other parents as it comes across as a natural product with no artificial ingredients! - by email, Sydney