Food additives and the adverse effects on childhood disorders and behaviour.

There is a difference between a childhood disorder that can be affected by food and a food allergy. A food allergy is an immune system response to a food that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. The immune system mistakenly believes that a harmless substance, in this case a food item, is harmful. In its attempt to protect the body, it creates specific IgE antibodies to that food. The next time the individual eats that food, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals and histamines in order to protect the body. These chemicals trigger a cascade of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system.

Symptoms range from a tingling sensation in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and the throat, difficulty breathing, hives, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, to death. Symptoms typically appear within minutes to two hours after the person has eaten the food to which he or she is allergic. Currently, there are no medications that cure food allergies. Strict avoidance is the only way to prevent a reaction. Most people outgrow their food allergies, although peanuts, nuts, fish, and shellfish are often considered life-long allergies. Some research is being done in this area and it looks promising. Although a child could be allergic to any food, such as fruits, vegetables, and meats, they are not as common as the following eight foods which account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions:

  • Milk
  • Egg
  • Peanut
  • Tree nut (walnut, cashew, etc.)
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Wheat

An additive is something that has been added to the food to enhance it in some way for a reason. Years ago, all food was processed in the kitchen and consumed fresh. Then a long time ago, division of labour began. In villages someone would set up as a baker or butcher, offering to take some of the labour out of food preparation. This process has continued unabated with the growth or urban populations and changing lifestyles. Although many people enjoy making bread, we accept that generally these items will be bought from specialists

Food additives came into being because mass, specialized food production has different requirements to those of the household kitchen. Problems of keeping qualities became acute in foodstuffs produced a long way from their point of consumption. Food additives came into use to satisfy these requirements for processed foods. In some products additives are considered so essential that they are retained even in organic foods.

In less developed economies, losses of foodstuffs between farm and table, due to microbiological deterioration, are very high and even in modern countries such as Britain the high incidence of food poisoning indicate the extent of this threat. Between one and fifty and one and five of the UK population probably suffers one bout of food poisoning per annum. This figure would be much higher without preservatives.

Preservatives, colours and flavours are the best know additives although they are many categories, each tailored to a specific purpose.

Food additives should be taken into consideration when regarding the role of food in shaping attitudes and behaviour as there can be an adverse effect of certain additives on behaviour e.g. E102 (tartrazine), E110, E124, Benzoates, BHAs and BHDs. There are so many different reasons why people behave in the way they do, and attempts to investigate one single aspect of it in isolation is fraught with difficulty.

Genetic factors are obviously important. Parents cannot help but notice the way in which genetic traits are passed from one generation to the next - not just the obvious physical attributes of your children, but aspects of their personality and behaviour too.

External factors also play a part. It's long been accepted that a stable, happy home environment is important to every child, though even the best behaved can become irritable when they are tired and hungry. (Adults too!). The role of food seems self evident - we are what we eat - but the precise way in which diet affects behaviour is more difficult to understand.

One of the first people to draw attention to a possible link between diet and behaviour was Dr Ben Feingold, an American allergist. He claimed that the behaviour of hyperactive children could be improved by removing artificial colours and flavours as well as certain fruits containing naturally occurring salicylates from their diet. His first paper was published in 1975 and many studies have been carried out since then on this subject.

Research also has been carried out by the independent watchdog the Food Commission found that so-called 'E-numbers' may adversely affect one in four toddlers.

The findings are based on reports from parents after their children consumed a drink that contained additives commonly found in popular crisps, sweets and fizzy drinks.

Table showing special dietary requirements, allergies and nutritional disorders

Researchers for the UK's Asthma & Allergy Research Centre analysed the effects of five different additives on 277 three year olds from the Isle of Wight.

These were the artificial food colourings tartrazine (E102), carmoisine (E122), and ponceau 4R (E124), and the preservative Sodium Benzoate (E211).

The Food Commission suggested that the findings backed calls for these additives to be removed from children's foods and drinks; however the British Nutrition Foundation said there was no evidence to support removing these additives from children's foods and drinks.

A spokeswoman said: 'The evidence is quite sketchy. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence but trials have been criticized in the past for being poorly designed and it is difficult to prove causation or association. It is difficult to define hyperactivity in children'

She added 'all additives go through rigorous testing in terms of safety so anything with an e-number means it has been approved for use in the UK and the EU and is safe.

But the spokeswoman suggested that parents who were concerned could choose alternative food or drinks that did not contain additives. 'There are lots of different products available. It's a question of choice for the parents'

The importance of good nutrition, especially for the growing child, has been highlighted in recent years by the ongoing debate on healthy eating, and public concern about the quality of school meals. There is a growing scientific consensus about the links between diet and health, but the true nature is not yet fully understood.

However there is enough research to suggest that certain additives and foods are detrimental to our children's well being therefore here at Sandcastles we have decided and are committed to providing only the food that are considered excellent for the children and to eliminate completely any foods that contain any of the additives that research has suggested. A list of all additives now eliminated.


Note to Parents You will be able to see from the table that some additives particularly colours have an adverse effect on children especially affecting children with the more common childhood disorders such as asthma, eczema, and behavioural changes.

However research also has shown that certain food have a positive effect on the disorders. For instance vitamin C found abundantly in citrus fruits, blackcurrants, strawberries, kiwi fruits, watercress, mustard and cress, green peppers, raw cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and parsley have been found to have a beneficial effect on asthma sufferers. Foods containing vitamin B6 have also been found to be beneficial for asthma sufferers.

Foods to avoid would be mucous forming foods, for example dairy foods, chocolates, refined white flour bread, cakes and white sugar. This is because excess mucous only serves to further block the airways and thus aggravate the conditions. Salt has also been found to have an adverse affect on this condition in that there is a direct relative effect in salt intake and an improvement in the condition and when the salt intake has increased again the asthma is found to get worse.

Fish oils particularly omega 3 oils have shown to benefit asthma sufferers too. Hence the ritual of fish weekly in Sandcastles. (There have actually been quite a lot of positive publicity omega 3 fish oils relating to concentration levels and behaviour in children resulting in lots of parents giving them as an addition to the diet)

Here at Sandcastles all this research and findings are taken into consideration and reflected in our excellent menu. We are committed to serving the children only Food for Life.
Sample Menu

219 Seacon Road
Bt53 6PZ
Tel: (028) 2766 6066


Considering social, physical, intellectual, creative and emotional needs of children


copyright 2011 Sandcastles Day Nursery, all rights reserved. Powered by FW designs