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Food Additives

Reporter: Chris Simond

Chemicals with strange names — many hard to pronounce — all of them looking like compounds from a weird laboratory experiment. Well, they are in a way and alarmingly, many of us could be part of it. Someone in your family may already be one of its guinea pigs.

“Not many people make their own food these days and so we should be aware of all the different food additives in food and what they do”, said Professor Geoff Skurray, a food scientist.Of the 30,000 food items in your supermarket, 90% contain additives & preservatives to prolong their shelf life. So, Professor Skurray, has been unscrambling those numbers beside words like emulsifier, enhancer, thickener and sweetener. And how’s about colour dyes? “Aleura red 129, there’s tartrazine 102 and indigo carbon 132, they’re commonly used in brightly coloured lollies and ice cream”, Professor Skurray said.

They’re used in soft drinks and cordials as well, but alleura red is already banned in the United States and tartrazine is banned in Asia– but both are still being used here, in Australia. As a result some children have been wrongly diagnosed with ADHD, others may be needlessly suffering from their side effects. “They get asthma like symptoms, acne , a dry throat, sometimes coughing”, Professor Skurray said.

Wayne and Deborah Howton had a wild child in son, Ben who was always fighting with his brother. After eliminating artificial additives and flavourings, peace returned, especially for Ben.It was the same with Lillian and Andrew Reeki, they removed colouring and preservatives from their son Caleb’s diet and Lillian said his behaviour improved dramatically.

The surprises continue — with all the bad press Asian food additive ‘MSG’ receives, or number 620 — Professor Skurray says its not responsible for the headaches and migraines people complain of. “Its not due to the MSG, MSG is perfectly safe. Its due to the histamines found in these products”, he said.

Professor Skurray’s new book is the code breaker when it comes to what these numbers mean — what each preservative is and whether it has any adverse effects. It could solve an ailment or condition you have been battling with, as Jennifer Thompson found out. “I had fever like symptoms, I had spontaneous bruising, the feeling of total unwellness”, she said.

Jennifer found she was allergic to flavour enhancer number 635 otherwise known as Ribonucleotide, a preservative 15 times stronger than MSG and one Sue Dengate from the ‘Food Intolerance Network’ has been campaigning against for the past decade — so far without success. “People think they’re being protected and they’re not”, Sue said.

So Sue, Jenniffer, Lillian and Deborah know what Professor Skurray’s on about, and you can too. If you have a wild child or a condition you just can’t get to the bottom of, there may be a solution. “You can use the book to look up the number of the food additive or if you know the name of the food additive, you can look that up and understand where it comes from and what it does to your health”, Professor Skurray said.

“Decoding Food Additives — A comprehensive guide to food additive codes and food labeling” by Dr. Geoffrey Skurray.

From publishers Lothian Books/Hachette Livre (02) 82480800 and available from Dymocks, Angus and Robertson, Grace Bros, David Jones and independent booksellers.

Copyright 2008 Channel 7 Perth

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