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Research Topic: Food Colouring Allergies

By Ian Mander, 12 February 2000.

Question: What food additives are people most likely to be allergic to?

Answer: Food additives most frequently implicated in adverse reactions are the yellow colouring tartrazine (102), benzoates (210, 211, 212, 213), monosodium glutamate (621) and the sulphites (220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 228). More info on these below.


Some people are hypersensitive to various food additives such as sulphites which are often used as a preservative. Eating foods containing these additives can cause various reactions, with anaphalactic shock in extreme cases.

At www.med.monash.edu.au I found this snippet:

In 1973 an American allergy specialist, Dr Ben Feingold, advanced the hypothesis that salicylates (chemicals that occur naturally in some foods), artificial food flavours, and artificial colourings were associated with hyperkinesis and learning disabilities in some children. Hyperkinesis in children is characterised by a marked and inappropriate physical overactivity, short attention span, excessive and unpredictable responses to stimuli, and other abnormal responses. Feingold claimed that a high proportion of children with hyperkinesis and learning difficulties improved when put on a diet that excluded foods containing salicylates, artificial colours and flavours. A number of studies were initiated to investigate this claim. Although the results have been conflicting it is clear that the improvement rate is much lower than originally claimed.

Nevertheless, some studies have demonstrated that, for a small number of children, some artificial colours are associated with abnormal behaviour.


Food additives commonly associated with allergies

Colourings

102 Tartrazine

Preservatives

Benzoates

210 Benzoic acid
211 Sodium benzoate
212 Potassium benzoate (not allowed in New Zealand)
213 Calcium benzoate (not allowed in New Zealand)

Sulphites

220 Sulphur dioxide
221 Sodium sulphite
222 Sodium hydrogen sulphit (sodium bisulphite)
223 Sodium metabisulphite
224 Potassium metabisulphite
225 Potassium sulphite
226 Calcium sulphite
227 Calcium hydrogen sulphite
228 Potassium bisulphite

Flavour enhancer

621 Monosodium glutamate (MSG)


For more food additive names go to this list from Australia. It has a few that my own (New Zealand) booklet doesn't (such as 107), but misses some like 226 and 227, and is not sorted into sections like "colourings" and "preservatives."

For general diet information, go to the contents page of the same site.



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