Bread preservative research

In the mid-1990's the bread preservative calcium propionate 282 was suddenly introduced into nearly all Australian breads without consultation or adequate scientific testing. Sue Dengate's research, published in a medical journal, was instrumental in reversing this trend almost completely because it showed that children's health, behaviour and learning were affected by a common product eaten every day.

Here is information on this research and the campaign to remove this preservative from our bread supply:

Update 2012

  1. 'Health' breads, specialty breads, wholemeal bread, flat breads, wraps and gluten free breads are the latest target for propionate preservatives and it can be difficult to find any brands that are preservative free.
  2. Manufacturers have started using whey, dextrose or wheat that has been cultured with propionibacteria to create a 'natural' form of propionate preservative. This bread can then be labelled 'no artificial preservatives', although it contains the equivalent of the propionate preservatives. See
  3. Calcium propionate 282 is not the only bread preservative that can cause problems. Any of the propionate (Propionic acid and its salts 280-283) can cause the same effects, but increasingly, manufacturers are using 280 and 281, presumably because 282 has the bad name.

See more at 282: propionate factsheet

Update 2009

Sue Dengate and Alan Ruben’s research paper can now be downloaded as a pdf.

 Update 2005

Bread preservative and the need for change

Manufacturers of Australia's two biggest selling brands of bread – Tip Top and Mighty Soft - are currently phasing out their use of the bread preservative calcium propionate (282) due to consumer concerns.

“Congratulations!” wrote one dietitian. “The hard work has finally paid off! Consumer opinion wouldn't have swayed in this direction if it weren't for consumer awareness, which you have undoubtedly contributed to greatly”. Since I have spent the last 15 years campaigning against the use of this additive, which I regard as the very worst of all additives, of course I am pleased, but there are wider implications of this action.

What has happened with the bread preservative is important because it shows that current medical thinking about food additives is wrong. The prevailing scientific model says that only a few children are affected by food additives so the greater good of the community is served the continued use of these additives. However, the move against the bread preservative shows that many more children are affected than authorities admit, and that the greater good of the community would be best served by the removal of harmful additives.

A paradigm shift

It also means that the use of other harmful additives should be re-evaluated. A change in scientific thinking like this is called a paradigm shift, and usually occurs because of something other than scientific research. In the case of food additives, it seems that the shift will be due to consumer demand.

When the Food Intolerance Network used the Freedom of Information Act to ask our food regulators (FSANZ) for scientific evidence to show that 282 is safe, they were unable to provide any scientific studies at all. Consumers often say, ‘the government wouldn’t allow it if it wasn’t safe’, but they are misled. As far as children’s behaviour and learning goes, the government is not looking. 

Meanwhile, our kids are in crisis. Last year, a quarter of children who attended outpatient services at Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne were there for learning difficulties and behavioural problems rather than medical conditions. A recent ACER survey showed that 30% of Year 9 students lacked basic literacy skills.

The bread preservative is not the only additive to cause problems. Twenty years ago, when more than 800 schools in New York City removed artificial colours and two preservatives from their school lunches, the numbers of learning disabled kids halved. This finding was ignored by authorities and since then, the use of harmful food additives has increased dramatically. Many new additives have been introduced or used in larger doses, including the bread preservative. In my experience this is the worst of all additives, often associated with speech delay or learning difficulties and behaviour problems.

There are many so many stories below regarding the effects of the bread preservative that we have stopped adding new ones, although they are still pouring in. You can see some of them in the Failsafe Newsletters, but the one that has shocked me most is the story of a little boy whose mother ate 10 slices of preserved bread a day during her pregnancy. By the time he was 18 months old, this boy was eating 10 slices of preserved bread a day too. That’s a lot of bread for a toddler to eat, but why not? Bread is supposed to be a healthy food. At that time, this little boy was an extremely poor sleeper with uncontrollable behaviour and up to ten seizures per day. When a friend mentioned the bread preservative to his mother, she switched to preservative free bread, and within days, his behaviour and sleeping improved. In the six months since then, he has had only three seizures.

Food authorities say it is up to consumers to prove that large numbers of children are affected by the bread preservative. How many children’s lives have to be ruined before it is too many? I would like to see our food authorities try prove that calcium propionate is safe for young children to eat.

Update 2004

Recent research has confirmed what some parents have been saying for years, that the bread preservative calcium propionate, number 282, affects some children and adults. This preservative, in various forms including propionic acid and cultured whey powder, is found in an increasing range of Australian and New Zealand foods.

The official response from the health ministers is that a certain number of people will have adverse reactions to food additives. Their advice: read the labels and avoid additives that cause you problems. My finding, published in a medical journal in 2002: none of the parents in my bread study were aware that a preservative in bread could affect children's health and behaviour, and none had realised that their children were affected. How are parents supposed to know to avoid this additive?

Now rat studies in Brazil have shown that propionates can cause permanent brain alterations and learning deficits when given to young rats in doses which are not much greater than can be eaten by a young Australian child eating bread which contains the maximum permitted dose of calcium propionates.

Collected below is research, stories and facts about calcium propionates.


    Sue Dengate with Isaac and Georgina Waite, Darwin








Brazilian rat studies: report, 2004

Propionic acid and its salts including calcium propionate (the bread preservative, 282) were approved as food additives by the World Health Organisation because propionic acid occurs naturally in the human body and so was assumed to be safe at any dose. At this stage it was not tested for its effects on children's behaviour and learning ability. Doctors subsequently identified a condition now called propionic acidemia, a metabolic defect which allows a buildup of propionic acid in the body and can result developmental delay, neurological problems and mental retardation in children.

More recently, Brazilian researchers hoping to mimic the levels of propionates found in propionic acidemia, gave propionic acid to young rats at levels not much greater than can be eaten by a an Australian toddler who is a big eater of bread preserved to the maximum. The rats showed deficits in their learning ability in a water maze and changes in their brains which lasted into adulthood. Could the same thing happen in our children? We don't know. The researchers also found that giving rats ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) at the same time could prevent the adverse effects. Could this work in young children? We don't know - but we should. It would appear that this additive was not thoroughly researched before it was released and quickly became widespread in a healthy staple which is frequently consumed by young children. There is absolutely no evidence that this additive is safe for the developing brains of young children in the doses currently available in many commercial breads. See Brazilian study references below.

Brusque AM, Mello CF, Buchanan DN et al. Effect of chemically induced propionic acidemia on neurobehavioral development of rats. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 1999;64(3):529-34.

Wyse AT, Brusque AM, Silva CG, Streck EL, Wajner M, Wannmacher CM. Inhibition of Na+,K+-ATPase from rat brain cortex by propionic acid. Neuroreport 1998;9(8):1719-21.

Brusque AM, Terracciano ST, Fontella FU et al. Chronic administration of propionic acid reduces ganglioside N-acetylneuraminic acid concentration in cerebellum of young rats. J. Neurol. Sci. 1998;158(2):121-4.

Trindade VM, Brusque AM, Raasch JR et al. Ganglioside alterations in the central nervous system of rats chronically injected with methylmalonic and propionic acids. Metab. Brain. Dis. 2002;17(2):93-102.

Fontella FU, Pulrolnik V, Gassen E et al. Propionic and L-methylmalonic acids induce oxidative stress in brain of young rats. Neuroreport 2000;11(3):541-4.

Pettenuzzo LF, Schuck PF, Fontella F et al. Ascorbic acid prevents cognitive deficits caused by chronic administration of propionic acid to rats in the water maze. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 2002;73(3):623-9.

Media Release August 2002


A new Darwin study shows that a preservative in our daily bread can cause irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance.

Reported in the August issue of the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, the study tested the effects of calcium propionate (preservative 282) on 27 Darwin children. After eating only four slices of bread a day for three days, 14 of the children who ate bread with preservatives showed worse behaviour.

Principal researcher Sue Dengate, who has written several best-selling books on food additives and children's behaviour, said the Darwin research was the first published study in the world to investigate the link between behavioural problems and calcium propionate - a link denied by the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

"Testing for behavioural toxicity should be a part of all food additive safety evaluation, but the Australian food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, has yet to take this seriously," Ms Dengate said.

Ms Dengate, a food intolerance counsellor, began the study with paediatrician Dr Alan Ruben when food regulators ignored her reports about the effects of calcium propionate.

The controlled study started by putting children with behaviour problems on the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital elimination diet, which avoided 50 harmful additives as well as natural salicylates, amines and glutamates.

"The results in this phase of testing were remarkable," said Dengate. "Behaviour ratings for irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance dropped from the 95th percentile to the 31st percentile showing just how badly some kids are affected by a range of chemicals in our food."

"When the kids ate disguised loaves of bread, half of them reacted to the bread containing preservatives."

"This is a real wake-up call for the food industry," said Dengate.

Nearly all bread in Australia now contains propionates, added for manufacturers' convenience to allow sliced hot loaves to be put into plastic bags without growing mould. There is no need for this additive if bread slicer blades are kept clean. Use of 282 has recently expanded into more foods, including cheese, fruit juices, dried fruit and emulsifiers.

"If your child is easily annoyed, demanding, argumentative, can't concentrate on reading or homework, is easily distracted, restless, fidgety and can't sit still, or has difficulty settling down to sleep, think food chemicals," said Dengate.

"The reaction is more likely to be moodiness or 'short fuse' than hyperactivity. Loud voice, lethargy, 'growing pains', stomach aches, headaches and bed-wetting or urinary urgency were also reported."

"This is an important public health issue. Effects of food colours on children's behaviour and learning are well documented. Food colours are in processed foods, which parents can choose to avoid, but this additive is in a healthy staple eaten every day. Parents don't even know it is there."

"Food regulators and manufacturers have failed us when it takes research funded by community donation to investigate behavioural and learning effects of a common preservative."



Wicking NT News 17 August 2002

Today Tonight video


Research Abstract

Abstract from Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health (2002) 38(4), 373-376.

Controlled trial of cumulative behavioural effects of a common bread preservative


Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Objective: Many anecdotes and one scientific report describe cumulative behavioural effects of bread preservative on children.

Methodology: Twenty-seven children, whose behaviour improved significantly on the Royal Prince Alfred diet, which excludes food additives, natural salicylates, amines and glutamates, were challenged with calcium propionate (preservative code 282) or placebo through daily bread in a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover trial.

Results: Due to four placebo responders, there was no significant difference by ANOVA of weighted placebo and challenge Rowe Behaviour Rating Inventory means, but a statistically significant difference existed in the proportion of children whose behaviours 'worsened' with challenge (52%), compared to the proportion whose behaviour 'improved' with challenge (19%), relative to placebo (95% confidence intervals 14-60%).

Conclusions: Irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in some children may be caused by a preservative in healthy foods consumed daily. Minimising the concentrations added to processed foods would reduce adverse reactions. Testing for behavioural toxicity should be included in food additive safety evaluation.

Key words:       attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); bread preservative; calcium propionate; children's behaviour; food additives.

Reply to the Australian Food and Grocery Council

Q. There was a letter in our local paper from the Chief executive of Food and Grocery Council which was very negative re your research. You should respond.

A. Dick Wells from the FGC appears to have written to a number of papers. His story varies. Here are some of his claims:

"The study was only conducted on children who had previously been diagnosed as suffering from a food allergy."

Wrong. None of the children in the bread preservative study had been diagnosed with either food allergies or intolerances. They were referred only on the basis of their behaviour which fell within the top 15% of the population on rating scales measuring irritability etc. Some of the parents in the study had noticed the effects of some foods, some had not.

"… food allergies affect less than 2 per cent of the Australian population." (NT News, 17/87/02, page 11)

It is true that food allergies affect less than 2 per cent of the population, but reactions to food additives are not allergies, they are intolerances. Someone must have told Dick about this because by the time he wrote to the Brisbane Courier Mail (19/7/02) he had changed his tune to "food allergies and food intolerances [which affect] only between two per cent and six per cent of the Australian population."

There is absolutely no evidence to show exactly how many Australians are affected by 282. Our study showed more than half of children with behavioural problems in the top 15% of the population were affected. Adults are also affected. So if we say half of 15%, that gives us 7.5% of all Australians, that is about one to two million.

"Of the 27 children on the study, only 14 exhibited worse behaviour after eating bread containing preservative."

This is positive spin from a group of callous, self-interested businessmen. "Only" 14 out of 27 is more than half. How many people have to be affected before the food industry will do anything? One million, five million?

"Calcium propionate has been approved for use in bread by Australia's food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand."

So it has. But it wasn't tested for its effects on children's behaviour or learning.

On the lighter side

'I notice our food regulators have recently changed their name from ANZFA (Australia New Zealand Food Authority) to FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand). Could this be because when you type ANZFA the spell-checker says "unsafe"?' - by email from Qld [it does too, I tried it.]

Some personal stories of the effects of bread preservative 282

These poured in after publication of the bread preservative study.

The good news!!!

There are three Australian chains selling preservative-free bread. The oils used in their baking do not contain harmful antioxidants and other plain bread ingredients are failsafe:

[208] 282: Extreme eczema from preservative 282

I realise you must be inundated with people contacting you about your research but I would like to personally acknowledge and thank you for your perseverance in bringing food sensitivities to the attention of the medical profession.

My three-year-old son, Jack, is a classic example of a reaction to preservative 282, except he also gets telltale extreme eczema, usually on his stomach and folds of legs and arms, which he scratches until it bleeds. It has been the latter symptoms that has made the effects of 282 so easy to identify in the end, after three years of spending thousands of dollars on medical specialists, allergy testing, cortisone cream, antihistamines and every type of traditional and alternative remedy available to mankind.

When my cousin introduced me to your book it was an absolute godsend. I was at the point where on many days I could have easily have put my son up for adoption. He was uncontrollable, irrational, stubborn and virtually beside himself with frustration and irritated skin.

My main frustration now is getting people to accept that this is Jack's problem, as so many people 'boo hoo' it as nonsense that it's related to food, and will often be found giving him these foods regardless of what I say. The other irritant for Jack is antioxidants used in cooking oils.

If you ever need a subject to test these out on, Jack would be ideal due to the tangible nature of his reaction.

Good luck with communicating this to the community at large. - by email, from Sydney

[207] 282: " very moody, stressed out and anxious " (September 2002)

I have always eaten a lot of bread, mainly wholemeal bread, muffins and bagels. I would often eat 6 English muffins a day. I used to get very moody, stressed out and anxious, in fact the people who I work with have asked me numerous times if everything is ok. I used to get very angry quickly and then in a split second I would feel like crying my eyes out. I also had an ongoing rash on my body, a feeling of ants crawling over my skin, was very tired and couldn't get up in the morning.

I really didn't want to be like this any more, so when I saw the previews on the telly about the bread preservative I watched with much interest, and decided to stop eating bread. Within a day I was feeling better, not irritable or anxious, and actually feeling happy, a change to how I normally feel. After three days I felt really different, better than I have for 6 or 7 years. Even my boss has said he's seen a huge change in me. I used to be a school teacher. If the kids in my class were feeling like I was, I can understand why they behaved the way they did. - Tim from Melbourne

[206] 282: A teenager talks about 282

My eldest son (15) has always been very calm, but even he notices an anger building up following the ingestion of 282. Everyone puts the blame of "out of control children" on to working mothers and their subsequent tiredness but what's in our "healthy" meals? Here is our conversation last night, verbatim:

T: "Mum, can you put down "no 282" in our bread at school camp?"

M: "Do you find 282 affects you that badly?"

T: "HELL YEAH, I find a huge almost uncontrollable anger building up inside me, for no reason, and I feel I just want to punch something or someone. I don't, though, of course."

M: "Is 282 worse than MSG?"

T: "Yes, sort of. MSG gives me a really flat, dead feeling along with the anger, but the effects of MSG are easier to control."

This is from a young man who poo poohed my suggestions a year ago, when I put the whole family on the elimination diet because it was easier for us all to do it than just the younger boys. He is now the mediator when conflicts arise. I, too, am affected badly by 282.- by email

"What is available in supermarkets"

I have always tried to be careful in regard to buying processed foods, eg cakes, biscuits, chips, lollies but never thought that bread was a big issue even though there are many varieties. Recently on a media program (Today Tonight) I became aware that nearly all bread brands contain a preservative 282 (calcium propionate) and the effects this may have on kids' behaviours. This again made me sit back and look at what is available in supermarkets that we take for granted as being healthy and safe to use.

Just standing in front of the yoghurts I was overwhelmed with the number of flavours and colours added to these products. Where do you start? I thought yoghurt was healthy, next came the deli and sandwich meats with all their preservatives and colours, but even walking through the fruit and vegetable aisles you start to wonder about genetically modified foods and the pesticides used. Going shopping has become a nightmare, I am turning everything over and an finding very little that has no colours, flavours or preservatives in it. I have 3 children and each one has their own problems, but I often wonder how much of this is brought on by what they eat. - Kathleen from Canberra

[[204] 282: "282 one of main triggers for migraine"

I am very interested in your research re calcium propionate. I thought that it may be of interest to you that as a migraine sufferer, I have found that 282 is one of my main triggers for a migraine attack. I have them very infrequently but very severely. By keeping a food diary I have been virtually able to avoid them. Calcium propionate has been off my list for at least five years. Thanks for drawing the attention of the world to the effects of this preservative. - by email

[204b] 282: Preservative-free bread in WA

We passed the bakery in Mundaring (WA) this morning on our way to the supermarket and there was a hand written sign in their window saying that none of their products have 282 in them …[also] 'U Bake it' do a line of preservative free bread mixes. - by email, WA

[203] 282: Preservative-free bread in Sydney

Thank you for writing your books, I have just about finished "Different kids" and can relate very well to the book, as I'm sure many parents can. Last year I read "Fed Up" and that spurred me on to look for a bakery in Sydney (close to me) that was selling or prepared to sell preservative free bread with NO LUCK. I did however find a place in Western Australia called All About Bread, and we have been buying our bread premix from there for some time now. If it can help anybody else out there, the website address is:

[203b] 282: Serious concerns about preservative 282

I am delighted to read the results of this study, as I have had serious concerns about preservative 282 for several years. I have been interested in the Failsafe diet since I discovered it a year ago through a web search.

My interest is based on two reasons. Firstly, my son developed behaviour problems when he was 2 or 3 years old. Although he was a bright child who did well at school, he would sometimes have uncontrollable rages, often had headaches and felt sick and missed school. At thirteen he became obsessed with drugs, (we lived in a beach suburb which fostered this), refused school, and became sporadically psychotic. Although this was blamed on drugs, I had always known that certain foods might cause his problems. Testing for allergies did not reveal anything conclusive. After eight years of trauma, which caused a deep family rift, during which time there were regular attendances at courts for his uncontrollable behaviour, he became a heavy wine drinker and was accidentally drowned in the sea at the age of 21.

Secondly, I developed a very irritable bowel in my early forties. Trying a rotation diet showed that commercial sliced bread caused severe constipation. Other foods, obtained from the delicatessen, also caused overwhelming sleepiness, headaches and bouts of stomach aches and malaise. It is now so bad that eating any commercial bread or products such as commercial schnitzels, causes an attack which is characterised by bowel cramps, pain, burning sensations in the gut, nausea, headache and muscle spasms in my neck, back and legs. It usually takes three days of fasting, or a rice diet, before the symptoms subside. My medical advisers would never take seriously my claim that bread, cakes and pastries were associated with the problem, although I underwent food challenges under the direction of a respected dietician. Semolina and some home made bread does not cause me any problems. The received view still seems to be that there is a psychiatric component to irritable bowel syndrome, especially as it seems a majority of women are diagnosed with this disorder! Consequently, there is little sympathy for the sufferer, and no treatment other than antispasmodics and anti-flatulence drugs.

I must say that my family and friends still see my disorder as unacceptable, so that I often have to eat things which I know will cause an attack I have been aware of the bicarb antidote for many years, but now find that only a dose of Durolax laxative taken the same day will head off the problem. I want you to know how grateful I feel to you for your persistence in pursuing this research and for publishing the findings so that further research may be undertaken to give your findings scientific credence. - by email, Sydney

[202] 282: Which breads ?

Q. I saw the bread preservative segment on Today Tonight. I checked the bread in my freezer and it did have 282. Do you have a list of which bread manufacturers make the bread without 282 or do I need to make my own bread? If you could please advise as I have 4 children under 5 years and desperately need some answers as to why all my children have behaviour problems. - by email

A. See our Shopping List on

[201] 282: Effect on adults

Q. I am curious as to whether the 282 mould inhibitor you have been looking at in children, is likely to have any effect on adults? Am I more at risk because I have to take daily medication for an illness? - by email, SA.

A. Calcium propionate (282) can affect adults as well as children with a wide range of health, behaviour and learning effects. Both illness and medication can increase intolerance to food chemicals.

[200] 282: Diarrhoea and stomach cramps

I just wanted to say thanks for doing your study on 282. I am the mother of a four year old girl who has seen many specialists and had heaps of tests in the last two years with no real answers. Since she was 12 months old she had persistent diarrhoea, stomach cramps, what we called "bottom burns" (very severe reddening and blistering of her bottom from front to back which meant she couldn't wear nappies or sit down) and mood swings (one minute she'd be on top of the world, the next she would be screaming and crying and have no idea why).

After seeing a "paediatrician" (I'm still not sure how he qualified) we put her on an elimination diet (it was our idea, he said to let her go and see if she grew out of it). We found her symptoms stopped when we removed all gluten containing products from her diet. A coeliac test came back negative so we reintroduced it to her diet and the symptoms started again. We eliminated wheat products and the symptoms stopped again. We did allergy tests and when they came back negative we were confused. I was sure that wheat was the problem, but apparently not. The gastro registrar that she sees was confused too. We decided to put her back on the full diet and then retest her for coeliac disease, but again it came back negative. She no longer has the diarrhoea and bottom burns, but the cramps and mood swings are still there.

Now we have a Plan B. I'm going to try eliminating 282 from her diet and see what happens. My daughter has been classified as gifted and does not have ADD, but her cramps and mood swings very much affect her and the people around her. Again, thanks for getting Today Tonight to show that story and I really hope it helps. I'm also going out today to get a copy of Fed Up. Just goes to show you: as a paediatric nurse I thought I had all the answers when it came to kids and I really had no idea at all. At least the paediatrician had less of a clue than I did!! He still tells me that because all the tests were normal there is nothing wrong with her. He said it's my parenting that's the problem, not my daughter's body, yet my two year old son is fine! - by email [Comment: it is possible to have an intolerance to wheat which will not show up on allergy tests - or it could be 282. Some of the children in the bread preservative study reported stomach aches, and see stomach cramps letter above and below]

[199] 282: Upset stomach

I was very interested in the Today Tonight segment. I have some real difficulties when I eat some breads yet I can eat other breads without them upsetting my stomach. - by email

[198] 282: Frequent flu, behaviour and rash on bottom

Thank you Mrs Dengate, I think you have answered my questions. I took my 4 year old daughter to a naturopath a year ago because I was sick of doctors giving her antibiotics for the flu which she got at least twice a year. One of the major suggestions was that I take her off wheat, so I did for the past year and she hasn't had a flu at all. We also noticed that her behaviour was much better and a rash that she has had for most of her life, mostly around the bottom area, had disappeared.

During this wheat-free year she did occasionally have some wheat and sometimes she would misbehave and sometimes she wouldn't and we couldn't work it out. I am positive the calcium propionate (282) is the cause. Over the past 2 months she has been eating wheat again, full on, but the bread that we eat is preservative free, and she has been a perfectly behaved child. I am not game to test her on a loaf of bread which has this preservative in it, but no doubt in the future she will have some at some time and we will be monitoring her behaviour. Thank you!!! - by email.[Comment: calcium propionate has very recently been linked with immunosuppression, which might explain the frequent flu.]

[197] 282: The bread preservative and heart rhythm

Q. Thanks for interesting article on the effects of bread preservative. I went to my heart specialist a couple of weeks ago and told him I that when I eat bread, it makes the rhythm of my heart go absolutely crazy. It misses one beat in four and makes me feel quite unwell. He told me that was absolute nonsense, but he would get me to wear a 24 hour heart monitor. So I did that and when they analysed the data, sure enough, 35 minutes after I ate four slices of bread, the graph went wild. But he still doesn't believe that it was caused by bread. So I'm going to look for another heart specialist who will listen to me. It was a real comfort to realise that there is a doctor (Dr David Brewster) who does believe beyond the textbook. Have you had any experience in 282 adversely affecting heart rhythm? I would be really interested to know whether you have had any other reports of 282 having other health side effects. - by email

A. See [116] Fast heart beat (tachycardia) (August 2001)

I have suffered for years from episodes of fast heart beat. It can be very strong and disturbing, and I have ended up in hospital but it goes away after a few hours and they could never find anything wrong. For a while I was getting it every afternoon. Eventually I worked out it happened on the days I ate bread. A friend suggested it might be the preservative in bread. When I eat Brumbys' bread I have no problems, but when I ate some preserved bread without thinking at my mother's place, I had another episode. - NT

[196] 282: How safe is safe?

Q. Calcium propionate and related preservatives belong to the GRAS list of chemicals, "Generally Recognised as Safe". The public has been assured for decades that the safety of these chemicals is conclusively proven. If indeed propionates are found to be unsafe, what assurance do we have of the safety of other food-additive chemicals on the GRAS list? - email, Sydney.

A. Additives are never tested for their behavioural toxicity, that is, their effects on children's behaviour or learning. There are no assurances regarding behavioural safety of any additives. There are 50 "safe" additives that have been associated with behaviour problems, see list on the website.

[195] 282: Craving bread

Q. You mentioned the additive 282 in bread causes behavioural problems in children. What about adults? I only started eating 8-10 slices of bread a day in June. It started out with 4 slices of toast for breakfast. Two of the slices were for my 2 year old, but when she didn't eat hers, I ended up eating all 4 pieces. I started eating 1 sandwich for lunch but was craving more so I have been eating 2 sandwiches now. Sometimes at dinner we have toasted sandwiches. I'm hoping it is the bread that has been making me feel so hateful and easily annoyed. I never used to be set off so easily. Now it seems that I can't even talk to my husband without getting upset and he is probably one of the nicest, easiest-going husbands around. I'm going to go off bread with 282 in it and see what happens. I'll let you know in 3 weeks if I'm feeling more normal. Please let me know if you have heard this happening to adults ?

A. One of the mothers in the bread study reported similar effects and there have been others. A number of people have reported the same kind of cravings - gradually eating more and more preserved bread. The bread preservative is not the only food chemical which can cause these symptoms but if it does affect you, you should feel better within days of avoiding it.

[194] 282: Worst additive

I believe that 282 is the worst food additive. It is hidden in a healthy food (bread and crumpets) and most people don't know about the problems it causes in children. Doctors don't know about it, so therefore it doesn't cause a problem (yeah right!!). It turns good kids into screaming, tantrum throwing, horrible children with no idea why. That's why I hate 282 more than all other additives. I don't like the others much either!! - this is an entry in the Worst Additive competition, winners to be announced in the next newsletter, out soon

[193] 282: More trials ?

Q. I have a son with ADHD, behavioural problems and a learning disability and another with a learning disability. I would like more information about the brands of bread/bread mixes that are free from the calcium propionate (282). Are you going to run a trial in Victoria ? If yes, I am interested in participating. Any extra additional information that you can give me I would greatly appreciate it. - by email

A. Sorry, there are no future trials planned, although many parents have volunteered. You don't need to take part in a study to trial the elimination diet. The bread preservative is not the only food chemical which can cause problems. Ask the phone contact in your area (see website)s on the website or email me for the name of a failsafe-friendly dietitian who will supervise this diet for you.

Q. I decided to try removing the additive 282 from my families' diet to see if the behaviour of my children would improve. So far they appear to have only be behaving worse. Have you heard of this happening before?

A. There are at least three possibilities. First, it could be withdrawal symptoms. Food additives are addictive. When you eliminate them, you can expect withdrawals which usually only last two days sometime in the first two weeks. Second, it could be that some other food chemicals - including natural ones like salicylates in fruit juice - are affecting your children and you have unknowingly introduced more of those at the same time. Third, are you sure the bread you have switched to is preservative-free? There are numerous instances of mislabelling or misinformation. If buying unlabelled bread, insist on seeing the label on the premix. If they won't show you the premix label, don't buy it. If buying labelled bread in a supermarket, ask to see the premix label for an instore bakery (although this does not guarantee the baker has used the correct premix, and there have been problems with that too). If the bread comes from out of store, ask which bakery, phone that bakery and ask about 282. There are many instances of wrongly labelled out-of-store bread. Brumby's is very safe - they do not have 282 in any of their breads.

Q. I asked at our local bakery whether they had preservative and they swore they didn't, but my sons and I reacted to it.

A. Many hot bread shop attendants will say there is no preservative in their bread because they don't add any and it isn't always listed as preservative. It is often listed as mould inhibitor (282). You need to see the premix label with your own eyes.

[192] 282: Hateful and easily annoyed (September 2002)

You mentioned the additive 282 in bread causes behavioral problems in children. What about adults? I only started eating 8-10 slices of bread a day in June. It started out with 4 slices of toast for breakfast. Two of the slices were for my 2 year old, but when she didn't eat hers, I ended up eating all 4 pieces. I started eating 1 sandwich for lunch but was craving more so I have been eating 2 sandwiches now. Sometimes at dinner we have toasted sandwiches. I'm hoping it is the bread that has been making me feel so hateful and easily annoyed. I never used to be set off so easily. Now it seems that I can't even talk to my husband without getting upset and he is probably one of the nicest, easiest-going husbands around. I'm going to go off bread with 282 in it and see what happens. I'll let you know in 3 weeks if I'm feeling more normal.

Two weeks later: After the first couple of days I started feeling less uptight. By the end of the first week I was feeling great. Then we went on a trip over this last weekend. I'm not sure if it was some toast I had both mornings where we stayed but the last few days I have been feeling all uptight again. We also stopped at McDonalds for breakfast on the way home yesterday and I'm not sure if there is 282 in the muffins. Now that I'm back home I will not be buying bread with 282 ever again. - email

[184] 282: "A modern Rachel Carson" (September 2002)

Congratulations on the publication of your research on 282! I couldn't help but remark to my wife that Sue Dengate is probably a modern Rachel Carson. Her book, "The Silent Spring" about the consequences of using DDT, changed the way the world looks at environmental chemicals. Your books and untiring effort are starting to produce, throughout Australia and even the world, a general knowledge of food intolerance and its consequences. Truly a monumental effort. - Bernard Trudgett, Wollongong. [Thanks, Bernard, and thank you to everyone who has written to congratulate me on the study's publication. J ]

[183] 282: "Many families in our district" (September 2002)

Congratulations on your fantastic work with the bread preservative research and media presentation. It certainly has a huge amount of people interested in our local towns. Many families in our district have tried avoiding 282 as a result and have had fantastic results, with much happier, easy-going kids. Our local school tuck shop is even considering switching to preservative free bread which I am sure will make a huge difference in the school as it is known to be a particularly bad school with very high teacher assault rate -both verbal and physical - and terrible bullying issues. I have also given their committee a copy of your tuck shop paper - they were very grateful for the info. - email, WA

[182] 282: "wonderful changes" (September 2002)

My son was experiencing behavioural and learning problems. Through diet (eliminating 282, other additives and some salicylates) I have seen some wonderful changes in him, especially in his sleeping. For the first time in his five years of life, he is sleeping 12-14 hours a day. - email, WA

[181] 282: "Now I have a completely different child" (September 2002)

I was extremely interested in the story of bread and ADHD on Today Tonight. I do not have an ADHD child however I used to have a child that could be quite erratic sometimes (like they all are at 5). He is dairy free and I have put him on preservative free bread over the last 2 weeks. Now I have a completely different child! No more tummy aches (used to occur every couple of nights) and very balanced behaviour. - email

[180] 282: "Already noticing a difference" (September 2002)

My jaw dropped to the ground after seeing your show on Today Tonight and thinking "that's my son!!" I thought I had tried everything to work out what was wrong with my son as a baby - he is 4 now. He wouldn't sleep. I was lucky to get 15 minutes sleep out of him day or night - doctors were saying it was colic, no remedies would help - nothing would work - he just constantly screamed and screamed and screamed. I thought I was going mad. It wasn't until I weaned him off breast milk that he started to calm down a bit - but he is still difficult and hard to live with. My other two children are not like this at all.

I could never come to any conclusions and neither could anybody else. I noticed recently after I ate certain foods, I would feel tired and have to lie down and in two incidents recently I could not keep my eyes open and had to immediately lie down and sleep. I thought this was to do with fats (margarine etc).

But after seeing the show it is like the light has dawned. It has been one week now and we have been buying preservative free bread - and I am already noticing a slight difference in my son. I intend to eliminate other preservatives and get to the crux of it all. Thank you and I feel that I am at the beginning of the trek to a new and improved life.

[223] 282: Taken off medication for ADHD (October 2002)

A few weeks ago, I saw Today Tonight's program regarding preservative 282. Since taking that preservative out of my children's diet, I have seen remarkable changes especially to one of my boys diagnosed with ADHD.

We have already taken him off dexamphetamine.

I have written to Today Tonight to hopefully get a follow up program as the greatest problem is McDonalds having 282 in their buns and muffins, which are provided by Buttercup. Let hope we can get somewhere as thousands of children in Australia are obviously affected and it's mind boggling to think of the millions of kids affected all over the world.

By all means use my e-mail and name on your website. If it helps one child, it would be worth it. - Peter Thomas, by email

[222] 282: Saved my son's future (October 2002)

I am now on the 2nd day of my 2 1/2 yr old not having commercial bread and I now have my angel back. Thank you, you have saved my sanity and my son's future - by email

[221] 282: Where are the bread preservative doses highest? (October 2002)

Q. Thank you for creating the awareness about propionates. According to a FSANZ spokesperson, levels depend on climate, meaning that Darwin would have the highest ones in tropical bread products.

A. In theory, it would be logical for Darwin to have to the highest levels in the world of calcium propionate and that is probably why we noticed the effect of this preservative first here. However, in practice, you can get maximum doses anywhere in Australia. According to one southern food analyst who refuses to be named, the sign "preservative 282" on the label can mean the bread contains anywhere from none to over the maximum limit. Three years ago, when the Today Tonight show had Adelaide supermarket breads surveyed for a segment on bread preservative, more than half the breads contained the maximum level of calcium propionates, see below. Yet another example of FSANZ being out of touch with what really happens.

Adelaide supermarket bread survey

Half of all samples tested contained maximum amounts of calcium propionate (282) in a Today Tonight survey of Adelaide supermarket breads in 1999. Eight loaves were sent to a Melbourne laboratory for analysis. Six of the eight loaves contained calcium propionate. Two samples contained small amounts, the other four (half of all samples tested) contained the maximum amount permitted. From the label you can't tell whether you are getting none, a low dose, or a high dose of this preservative. Reactions are dose-related and this information is important.

Brand                                       Calcium propionate (282) (Maximum permitted is 2.4 g/kg)

White sliced

Tip Top Swiss Maid                   2.4

Generic Woolies                        2.4

Generic Coles (Savings)          2.4

Generic Coles (Farmland)       0.5

Buttercup Sandwich                   0.3

Frewville White Sliced                none detected


Tip Top                                     2.3

Buttercup                                  none detected

Calcium propionate analysis                                                                                       

All comply with Food Standards Code of no more than 2.4 g/kg. GM Brown, Chemist. Food Laboratories (Aust) Channel 7/s Today Tonight, April 1999.


Q. Where is the evidence that whey powder is a natural form of calcium propionate (282)?

A. Bonita Glatz, professor of food science at Iowa State University, describes the disadvantage of propionic acids used as a preservative: "The pure acid or propionic salt must be labelled as a preservative when added to a food, thus precluding the use of the desirable term "all natural". She then provides an option: "Alternatively, the propionibacteria may be grown in a natural medium such as milk or cheese whey and the entire medium … may be dried and used as a natural preservative". Ref: Glatz, B. "The classical propionibacteria: their past, present and future as industrial organisms" American Society for Microbiology News, 1992, vol 58, no 4, 199-200.

[220] 282: Checking ingredients (October 2002)

We've been on the diet for a year. Something I've noticed in the last month - more and more people are checking the ingredients on the packets in the supermarket. Thanks again for all your persistence with the food industry. - by email

Q. Do you have any suggestions about which brands of bread are preservative-free and/or how I could obtain preservative-free bread in the northern suburbs of Sydney? Most of the brands of breads in the supermarket (Cole's and Woolworths) have preservatives in them.

A. See our Shopping List on frequently updated as new reports of preservative-free bread come in.

[219] 282: No need for breadmaker (October 2002)

We are doing the failsafe diet with my son, aged six. The difference has been dramatic. His comprehension and reading skills have improved greatly since we started firstly additive and preservative free then started salicylate, amine and MSG free. We make our own bread. Finding that Brumby's are preservative free means that I don't need to take my breadmaker on holiday with us. Wow, a break all round!

Knowing what I am going through, and being able to read others' experiences has been life saving for me as a Mum. I very much appreciate what you have done with your web site. - reader Qld

[218] 282: no more "long-life" bread for us (October 2002)

Since we started using only Brumby's bread my girls are quite livable. We have fruit and vegetables, but steer clear of juices, soft drinks, crisps and sweets. Most of our food is home cooked from scratch so that I know what is used, and one girl is dairy-free. We haven't gone back to 'long-life' bread because Brumby's is so much tastier anyway.

[224] "After four weeks, he was able to go without medication altogether" (October 2002)

It's been 7 weeks now since we switched to Brumby's bread. Within days, my 10 year old ADHD son started improving and we halved his dose of dexamphetamine medication. After four weeks on preservative free bread, he was able to go without medication altogether.

You've no idea how much this child has changed. It's huge. I no longer get calls from school, he's bringing home merit awards, he entered himself in a maths competition, studied for it and won the first round . He does his homework without being asked. Half the time he goes to bed and is sound asleep before we say anything. Before, we used to get excited if he got to sleep by 11 pm. One day we were late for school and he said "that's OK, if we're late, we're late". Before, he would scream at me and kick the door. The change is unbelievable.

My older son has changed too. He is a very calm and loving child but he used to be so forgetful - like he was in another world. He would get very frustrated at forgetting things and sometimes he would snap. Now he remembers everything the first time.

We've seen improvements in the whole family - all five of us - except for the last two weeks, when we on holidays and we couldn't get Brumby's bread. We bought a bread labelled "no preservatives" but we all got worse. Then someone told me about whey powder. When I checked the label, it had whey powder in it.

My husband and I have noticed we have so much more energy and are less moody on preservative-free bread. With 282, I'm so tired all the time, I can't hold a conversation without losing people, my handwriting is terrible, I write some of my letters backwards, and I've even reversed phone numbers (02 instead of 20). This is really important in my job.

Three of us (me and two of the kids) are asthmatics. On the Brumbys bread we've all been asthma free and medication free for 3 weeks. That's a long time for us.

I'm angry. They think because they put a number on the label, they can put anything they like in our food. But we don't know what it is or what it can do to us. I don't want my child medicated if there's another way. - Anne-Marie, Hunter Valley, NSW

WARNING: bread mislabelling in a major supermarket

You might like to know that bread [from one of the biggest supermarket chains] that I thought was preservative-free has had preservatives all along. I spoke to a guy in the bread section and he put me onto a guy at the bakery where they get the bread from. It turns out the bread has always had preservatives 281 and 282 in it, but the supermarket put the packaging on it without listing 281 and 282. I let them know that it wasn't good enough. - reader, Tasmania

Extract from an email about chest "electricity"

"…a couple of years ago I started noticing that about half an hour after having a sandwich (non-white bread) for lunch, I would get this feeling of "electricity" in my chest. I could also feel my pulse throbbing in my neck and ears, however, not at increased speed. I have tried yeast free bread but to no avail. The funny thing though is, if I eat a piece of Danish pastry, nothing. I get it from pumpernickel bread as well. When I was visiting home (Sweden) I didn't get a reaction from the store bought bread nor my mum's yummy home made. I asked my sister to send me the ingredients list (I forgot of course) and I can't really see any difference. This also happened with Australian-made bread. Could it be the preservative you were talking about and maybe Sweden doesn't use it? - Jill Q

Saved my son's future

I am now on the 2nd day of my 2 1/2 yr old not having commercial bread and I now have my angel back. Thank you, you have saved my sanity and my son's future - by email


My five year old daughter has always had messy writing, all over the place and half her letters backwards. We switched to Brumby's bread three weeks ago. Since then, her writing has changed completely. It is neatly aligned and formed, and she hasn't done a single reversal. I'm a teacher. This must have implications for other students in our schools. [Examples of this work will be displayed on the website soon]. - teacher, NT

The following stories about the bread preservative were collected BEFORE the scientific study was released

[139] 282: Bread preservative-induced ADHD

I have felt compelled to write to you for some time now to let you know how successful Failsafe foods have been in our home. Our daughter, Courtney, now aged 7, was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 5. I was not convinced that the process of this diagnosis was exactly scientific so I decided to do some reading.

I read "Different Kids" and embarked on the elimination diet with the help of a dietician. We had tremendous results. Courtney's teachers were openly amazed at the change in her behaviour. With their support we started the challenges - no noticeable reaction to salicylates or amines, but a very strong reaction to the bread preservative (282) which gradually built up over a 5 day period. Once the challenge was stopped, it took 2 weeks for withdrawal. Courtney's behaviour was extremely aggressive and impulsive and withdrawal resulted in lethargy and stomach aches. We have not been able to do any further challenges as Courtney was jeopardising the very fragile friendships she had begun to make. We will need to wait for the Christmas holidays before proceeding any further.

I have only recently read "Fed Up" and I was amazed to learn just how many children react to 282. Our dietician was surprised at our results. I am now a bit of a campaigner against food additives and recommend your books to anyone willing to listen! Our heartfelt thanks to you for helping us rediscover the lovely little girl we knew as a baby without the need for medication. - Heather - by email

[095] 282: Itchy hives

I'm letting you know how I got on with the bread preservative. I did get a reaction but not as bad as the amine test. Enough though to avoid eating it unless there is no other option. By the way, my reaction is always itchy hives. - reader, email

[058] 282: "An extreme difference in behaviour"

I am currently reading your amazing book, Fed Up. I must commend you on a job extremely well done. I honestly never realized that there could be such an emphasis on the food we eat contributing to a range variety of illnesses and behavioural problems. As a mother of two - a girl 6yo and a boy 3yo - I have noticed an extreme difference in the behaviour of my son just by changing the bread which we eat to not include preservative 282. I am sure by the end of your book and after implementing the Elimination Diet there will be many changes - all for the better.

Thanks again for making me more aware and for your great recipes - they are a treat for the whole family.- reader, email

[031] 282: Results of bread preservative (282) challenge

You said you were interested to hear how our challenges went. Well, what can I say - they weren't fun times.

We challenged nitrates and amines and yes, my daughter does become irritable a day or two after eating foods containing these chemicals. Her mood only lasts around 24 - 48 hours and so this isn't too bad. I can tolerate this but as for the 282 bread challenge, I never want to see another slice of bread or crumpet or anything else that contains this preservative.

I felt cruel doing this challenge but as you say, we do need to know if she reacts to this preservative. I could see her mood slowly changing by the fifth day on the challenge and from then on it only got worse.

My food diary reads:

day 5 - cries easily

day 6 - cries easily, slightly cranky

day 7 - cries easily, sour faced (stopped challenge)

day 8 - angry, irritable, fighting with us and sibling

day 9 - foul mood

day 10 - terrible mood, irritable, cranky, easily angered

day 11 - mood still bad but improving

day 12 - bad mood, irritable, angry, stirring siblings

day 13 - irritability improving; still fires up but not as frequently

day 14 - mood much more pleasant

day 15 - pleasant child

The one good thing to come from this challenge was that it opened my husband's eyes up and he has now started reading labels and watches carefully what our children eat.- mother of two

[008] Simon's story: extremely active exploder to model student (March 1999)

Part one (after four days on failsafe foods)

"Our 4 year old son Simon is an extremely active child that we have suspected of food intolerances for a long time. I had a miserable childhood, labelled as a "Trying Child" at five years old and spent most of my school life outside the teachers office. When I was 11 my parents put me on a preservative-free diet which did wonders, but was very difficult as 20 years ago no food was labelled.

Simon is extremely volatile at home and little things set him off, for example a rollerblade through the plaster in the wall because he could not get the knee pad done up properly. He is a perfect angel when things are going his way, but explodes when he is challenged or things do not turn out how he wants. We have always been proud of his "mature palate" and his weekly diet would include foods like pesto, tuna, anchovies, olives, salami and parmesan cheese. He generally melts down in the afternoon at 3 pm. As he has never eaten sweet foods we thought he was not reacting to foods in an obvious way. He also eats heaps of bread, all with preservative 282 we discovered.

For four days we have been in heaven. Simon has done things that were just never part of his personality (washed his hair, flushed the toilet, picked up toys) and already he is much more communicative, following me around the house just chatting. He has been challenged by things not going his way a few times and had a couple of tantrums, but they are less severe and over very quickly.

The best thing is that I have been eating the foods he eats and I feel so much calmer and able to deal with him ... My husband and I consider we are reasonably intelligent and rational people but we have been at a complete loss about our son's behaviour.

Part two (six months later): Simon is at school now and has settled really well. We went to see a behavioural paediatrician before school started and he stressed that these behavioural issues cannot usually be solely dealt with by diet ... but he was very impressed with our details about Simon's change in behaviour and his diet, supported by testimonials from the day care centre.

We have had our first parent teacher interview at the school and we went along all defensive and ready to hear tales of mass destruction in the class room and were overjoyed to hear the teacher describe Simon as the "Model Student", courteous, hard working, able to concentrate. We were so overwhelmed that we did not even find out if he is intelligent or at the bottom of the class, because, quite frankly we do not care!!!! As long as he can sit still ... he still is very excitable in the playground, but not aggressive.

The next week he was awarded a "Special Effort Award" for "Excellent Cooperation in the Classroom", and had to go to the front of Assembly to receive it, and all this from a boy who six months ago we did not think was going to cope.

We are still identifying things that really affect him and we do not touch olives, cheese, tuna, meat pies and soy sauce now. We have had a couple of incidents with sausages and sausage rolls which have resulted in snitchy behaviour and bed wetting ...

We have been really pleased with the response from the school. They do not have a tuck shop and we have written to Simon's teacher about food sharing. There have been two birthday celebrations and on both occasions the parents have contacted me about what party food Simon can have, so the whole class has gotten sponge cake and lemonade icy poles.

The child care centre has recommended your book Fed Up to a number of families that they feel might need to address their children's behaviour through diet. They also have a low to moderate food chemical diet for babies room based on the Friendly Food book from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit. They do not eliminate everything but are aware of not giving multiple serves of "high" salicylate fruits to the children and the menu is very low in amines. Again we have been very impressed with their help.

Thank you for your help, we have another appointment with the paediatrician next week to follow up Simon's progress at school. He was going to contact the school and work through some management strategies for Simon if the wheels had fallen off when he started school. Now it seems as though his unmanageable behaviour was a bad dream and that it was a completely different child to the reasonable, mostly rational and adorable 5 year old that we now have.

Part three

Although Simon was not a "basket case" before Failsafe foods, everyone we know has commented on his behaviour improvement, even though some did not think it was an issue previously and it was not an issue for us every single day. His change in general demeanour has made a HUGE difference to our lives, just the ability to communicate daily without the general crankiness has made us a much happier family. I think that many people do not realise what a difference it makes just not to have to battle over every issue and every point with someone who often realises they are being very unreasonable but cannot manage their responses, and that children do not need to be on the verge of being put on medication to greatly benefit from diet changes.

Part 4 (June 1999)

(This family was one of the first to buy Fed Up and started an elimination diet soon after when their son was in preschool. Here is the follow up after nearly a year on failsafe foods with Simon now in school.)

We have just had Simon's first school report and teacher interview. We were over the moon when we saw his report, he is doing really well in prep, has no difficulty concentrating (no more than other 5 year old boys), and is on track with reading and writing. AND - he scored in the highest category for "polite and considerate" and "cooperative in class"! We are so pleased at how well he has settled into school and how responsible he is with his food. We have maintained a failsafe diet for nearly 12 months now and we have never been happier. My husband and I have given up wine and beer (now we stick to gin) and this has added to the benefit. We cannot thank you enough for your book and your help. - anonymous

The worst additive

The worst additive in my experience thus far is the preservative 282 used in most commercial breads. This additive is so strong that when breast feeding my 6 month old baby boy Chris – if I ate only 1 slice – he got enough through my breast milk to cause him to start screaming in agony with stomach cramps and have diarrhoea within 12 hours of me eating the bread containing 282. Chris is now 21 months old and if he eats anything with 282 he is in terrible pain and has diarrhoea within hours. - by email.

Oppositional defiance

After reading your web page, I immediately eliminated preservatives and colourings from my pantry and my shopping list. The most obvious reaction has been the elimination of the bread preservative 282. We have had a breadmaker for 12 months now but had recently become lazy and had reverted back to using commercial breads. I could never understand how my daughter could be an angel for one whole day and then spend the next 5 days angry and sullen.

The Reader's Stories showed me that preservative 282 could be the culprit. I am now using only preservative-free bread, or Laucke's pre-mix in my breadmaker. My daughter's Oppositional Defiant Disorder has disappeared within a week.

My husband and I were so dumbfounded when we issued an instruction last weekend - expecting it to be completely ignored, followed by a stormy argument - to have my daughter jump up, reply "Yes, Mummy, sorry I didn't hear you the first time", carry out the task and then return to her play. We sat and looked at each with stupid grins on our faces for a full five minutes. - reader, Queensland

Calmness and concentration

My son's behaviour seems to be progressively getting worse as he gets older. I have pinpointed two major additives to cut out and have had some success with calmness and concentration just eliminating preservative 282 and natural colour 160b in his diet. - reader WA

On track

My daughter, who is now 7 years old and who began the failsafe approach at age 3, reacts in the following ways whenever she has 282 in bread. She becomes defiant, hyperactive, impossible to reason with, plain silly, very loud, noisy, annoying to others, demanding, pushy, and if something doesn't go her out...fully blown tantrum including slamming doors, storming out the house, screaming, yelling, crying that goes on for a long time. Can't and won't follow simple instructions, becomes distracted easily, goes off track and off task, becomes destructive She also finds settling at night really difficult … can't seem to switch off. The next day she realizes that it was the 282 that made her feel that way ... and she genuinely can't refrain from behaving in this way. We are pleased though that as she grows her reactions seem to be becoming slightly less severe. I think this has to do with more careful diet, increased body weight, and increased maturity on her part.

Prior to going failsafe, life was unbearable. She had night terrors every night for 4 years etc, etc, etc. We made many trips to specialists and psychologists and others, with no explanation as to why we had a totally uncontrollable child. We chose to try Failsafe before we filled the prescription for Ritalin that we had been given, and thankfully it worked!

Thanks to your book, Fed Up, we have seen incredible results and are now on track. - Debbie, Victoria

"I felt like a slug"

I'm only doing the elimination diet to keep my overactive son company, so I was very surprised at my own reaction to the bread preservative (282) challenge. After two days, I got so incredibly tired, I thought I was getting sick. All I wanted to do was sleep; I felt like a slug. Now, I have excessive energy normally so this was quite a change. When I stopped the bread I felt better overnight. - reader, USA

Biggest single contributor

Hospital staff wanted to put our 4 year old daughter on medication for ADHD about 4 months ago. As she is already on a lot of medication for her epilepsy we were very anti this and went in search of alternatives. On discovering the elimination diet we as a family all decided to do it. We found that the biggest single contributor to her behaviour problems was 282 in bread - this caused major problems, but the other additives to certain degrees as well. Her behaviour has improved out of sight and her general overall health has improved too. - reader, WA


We got the results of our double blind capsule challenges yesterday at the hospital. MSG was the worst. Nicholas got extremely violent, kicking, punching, verbally abusive, very oppositional Next worst was calcium propionate (282). Nicholas became very hyperactive (remembering that Nicholas is the dreamy variety of ADHD, not the hyperactive variety). He started babbling and making silly inappropriate noises, and by bedtime he was still hyped up.- Susan, Sydney, full story on the website

Memory lapses

I thought you might be interested in this story from our group. One of the boys was exhibiting forgetfulness, inattention and memory lapses so noticeable that he was referred for brain investigation of suspected epilepsy. However, he never reached the tests - he stopped eating preserved bread first, and his problems stopped. - reader, Victoria

Especially 282

Our daughter turned out to be sensitive to glutamates and additives especially 282 and colours. - reader, Canberra

Inability to sleep

We've had lots of reactions on our elimination diet. However, the most direct links are dermatitis in my 6 year old son related to food colourings and preservatives, and my inability to sleep well related to 282. - reader NSW

"Off the planet"

When my son was three, he was always irritable and often aggressive. At four, he was suspended several times from preschool for violent and dangerous behaviour.

We went to parenting courses, but the techniques were ineffective with our son. He has been on the diet for three years, and we have found that the behavioural management has worked much better since starting the diet.

Diet hasn't solved all the behaviour problems, but he is very much improved. One of the things that affect him most is preservative 282, a complete "off the planet" - almost psychotic - experience.

It has been very hard to work out as his responses take a long time to show up (three days for the 282) and even longer to wear off. If you are unlucky enough to have a child like this it is quite difficult to isolate the intolerances. You have to maintain the strict elimination diet for longer than two weeks before starting challenges, and leave long gaps between the challenges or the responses get confused. - Alison, Queensland

Bread preservative not necessary

"We've found that taking preservatives out of bread products gives a better presenting product, one that tastes better, smells better and we believe is inherently safer for people, so we just don't add preservatives … Invariably, someone will be affected some time so we chose to affect as few as possible by adding none". - Mark Laucke from Laucke's Flour Mills in South Australia on Today Tonight show about bread preservative, May 1999

[036] Jack's story: severe speech delay associated with bread preservative (April 2000)

I have been meaning to write to you for years to thank you for your books. We were on the right track with our then four year old son, Jack (now coming up to 10) when I read "Different Kids". I already suspected ADHD and knew very well that he reacted to food as do I. Jack had his first food reaction at 20 weeks gestation! I ate some of those awful red sugar-coated peanut things and he just went berserk, looping the loop and throwing himself all over the place for about an hour or so. So we were prepared.

I breastfed him for nearly three years - breastfeeding was only time I got to lie down and rest. He was a "windy" but fairly normal baby early on and I did avoid any foods in my diet that seemed to cause problems. He never liked to be left alone and would panic if put down while awake. From three months constant movement and novelty was required to keep him happy. When he was happy he was radiant and when he was not he was grizzly and constantly squirming with this giving way to frantic screaming if the boredom lasted for more than a few minutes. Out shopping, strangers loved him as he responded with such joy to any attention and he was a very attractive baby. I had to carry him on my back in a sling, the stroller was too boring, too far away from me and not social enough. I accepted all this as I had been told I was a very, very difficult baby - colic - and my expectations were therefore "realistic".

At four months I began to introduce solids - rice cereal with breast milk to mix. The novelty seemed to appeal to Jack! Then I began to mix a small amount of orange juice in with the cereal to boost iron absorption. From there I introduced apple, ripe banana, pureed vegies (broccoli, pumpkin, etc.). He wasn't so keen on this but I heard about adding cheese to make the vegies more appealing, so I did this, often using parmesan cheese as well as milder cheeses. Jack loved bolognaise sauce mixed in too. Another favourite was avocado. He loved apricot and yogurt. He had a small amount of mashed prune to counteract a tendency to constipation. I was so pleased that he ate well and proud he had such a good appetite and such an ideal diet. When others asked how he slept (pretty awfully) I could at least say, "But he eats really well".

Meanwhile our little boy was getting more and more grumpy and demanding and more and more miserable when he wasn't amused. I looked frantically for the "ideal toy" the thing that would hold his attention. Each new item was met with delight and then discarded within thirty seconds and the grizzling began again.

Jack woke at least twice a night. He was into everything and seemed to always want more - more - more. He wasn't babbling - ba ba ba & da da da at 10 months. (In retrospect, the first sign of his problems with auditory processing that later resulted in speech delay and difficulty in learning to read.) He never sat and played. He never sat! He went straight from crawling to being dissatisfied because he couldn't yet walk.

From the 4 months we put his "difficult" and unhappy behaviour down to "teething". The first tooth didn't appear until eleven months.

When Jack was four months old I ate a small amount of dark chocolate in an ice-cream and about one hour later breastfed Jack. Within half an hour he was screaming inconsolably and instead of being tense as crying babies are he just lay back in my arms in an almost relaxed way as he screamed (low muscle tone no doubt). I identified the chocolate as the most likely culprit - I'm now sure I was right. After Jack went to sleep I sat up and expressed my other breast out into a nappy!

He was still a delightful, smiling, social child as long as he had the undivided attention of someone and a constant stream of novelty.

I've gone into this first year in detail because it really shows most clearly what was going on even if it was not obvious at the time.

My second child, a daughter called Ellen, was born when Jack was nearly 3 and a half. Jack was delighted and adored his little sister. The pregnancy was complicated by my blood pressure going high from 23 weeks. My mother came to look after us all as I was meant to be resting as well as taking anti-hypertensive medication. My mother just couldn't take Jack's behaviour.

I had been avoiding wheat in Jack's diet as I believed I had a problem with it. (My problem was actually with calcium propionate (282), of course, but cutting out all wheat did solve my problems of fatigue and fuzziness and so for years I thought I needed to avoid wheat). For convenience we changed to normal white bread from the supermarket. Jack loved it after the drier rye bread I had used formerly. I had not a clue about the preservative in the bread. Jack's behaviour went from bad to atrocious.

Jack's behaviour was at its all-time worst between the ages of 3 and 4. It was during this time he was eating the preserved bread. He put his hand through a windowpane during a tantrum. He woke with nightmares and screamed madly about and it was impossible to get through to him.

He went to bed late, reappearing often saying he was hungry and wanting (surprise, surprise) another slice of bread. He would wake at 4.30 in the morning wanting to be entertained. The only toy he persistently liked was his ride-on car. His behaviour and manner were almost autistic but for his insatiable sociability. His speech was very delayed and I don't think he really understood a lot of what was said to him. He was however very imaginative and inventive and liked to play pretend games, but always with someone. He had no liking for being read to but preferred to have me act out stories with both of us taking roles.

Needless to say I was exhausted and miserable. We lived half an hour out of town. My husband, Nick, was at that time managing farms. It was a very similar situation to yours, I think.

Jack was going to preschool in town a few days per week. Although they did not complain about Jack's behaviour (he has never been physically aggressive towards other people, even at his very worst and he's never said "I hate you" either - he is a very gentle character) When pressed they would say he was a bit weird, hiding in the playhouse and refusing to come out when the others were sitting on the mat listening to stories and taking off outside at inside time, etc, but he was only three so a lot of immaturity was allowed for.

My mother and my husband, Nick and I discussed Jack and his behaviour and decided that his things had got much worse around the time of the change in bread type. I took Jack of all wheat. The change was astonishing. He could have his socks put on without going berserk. You could talk to him and he would act on what was said. He didn't scream through everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing etc. When he went to preschool that week I dropped him off and didn't say anything about the changes. When I picked him up the teacher approached me and said "What have you done - he's a different child - he's playing with the others and listening to us."

Just before Jack went off wheat he had been assessed by a speech therapist at the preschool. She diagnosed, as best she could -we couldn't really keep Jack in the room much less anything like on-task - a severe expressive language delay and a moderate receptive language delay. Six weeks, later when off the wheat products, was reassessed by the same speech pathologist, using the part of the test that Jack had not done due to being non-cooperative. This time he seemed to have no significant receptive language delay and was only mildly delayed in his expressive language. She said she had never seen a child change so dramatically within such a short period of time.

Of course avoiding wheat meant avoiding a lot of foods, such as sausages. So Jack's diet also became generally blander and so did Jack. He was still difficult but at least he was "on the planet" now. He was only four but used to ask me "Why am I so happy, Mum?"

After a couple of months I screwed up my courage to do a challenge for wheat. I cooked some pikelets so I knew just what had gone into them. No reaction other than a very happy child - yummy pikelets!

I challenged with bread, planning to do two-week-on -- two-week-off challenges to see if any difference was apparent. That challenge lasted for two slices of bread fed to Jack at 4.30 on a Friday afternoon (timed so as to coincide with the weekend when Nick would be about)!! Within forty-five minutes, Jack was off his brain. Screaming, upset by everything - he finally went to bed and woke at 4.30 and was off again. This reaction lasted as a major thing for three days and Jack was unsettled for at least a week afterwards. Nick strapped Jack into his car seat and spent a lot of time driving around checking the property that weekend! We have never rechallenged this one as Jack himself has no desire to repeat that particular experience and neither have we.!!

The clinic sister I went to for Ellen was very supportive of my efforts to unravel the cause of Jack's problems with diet. When I had identified bread as being a huge problem she pointed out that bread did contain a preservative. She did not know anything particular about this preservative and its effects and she only mentioned it because preservatives were believed to be a cause of behaviour problems in children. Unfortunately I didn't take this too seriously at that time - I still believed that they wouldn't put anything this harmful in our "daily bread" and therefore the preservative couldn't be that harmful.

I spent the next year or so thinking our problem was yeast. I also noticed that a lot of Italian food caused major problems and made Jack pale and blobby looking as well as affecting his behaviour.

It was around this time I found and read "Different Kids" and it all began to make sense. What I had been doing as a mixture of the observation that the blander the diet the blander the children, my little clinical-trials-with-one-(or two, three or four) participant(s) and intuition could now be done with structure. I think you saved us another three to four years of misery, money wasting and mucking about.

These days my husband says he feels better and doesn't get headaches any more. I've found I react to many things and I compete with Jack for the most sensitive-in-the-family status. Ellen reacts to salicylates by becoming easily enraged and blaming everyone for everything. She is, by the way, the most un-ADD person I've every met - highly organised, very logical, and a real old head on young shoulders -very knowing and mature and reasonable. She is also extremely bright and academically gifted especially with maths.

Jack becomes hyper and idiotic and unable to learn when he has more than moderate salicylates in his diet. His salicylate reaction is a rapid-onset-rapid- resolution-type reaction. Amines used to make him irritable and as close to aggressive as he got but these days the reaction takes the form of a migraine. Jack still has academic problems related to his ADD and particularly to his auditory processing disorder. He is on Ritalin for school. I liken it to wearing glasses and tell him his sister wears glasses at school to help her eyes focus and he needs Ritalin to help his mind focus. He takes a very small dose (1 tab then 1/2 tab three hours later) and he finds it very effective. He does not take it at weekends usually although he would have a dose if we were going to do something that required good behaviour despite being bored or to help with a task requiring concentration and organisation such as making a model etc. He also asks for a dose if he his anxious to be on his best behaviour.

We also need to apply behaviour modification techniques on a daily basis - I did a Triple P course and this has been immensely helpful in managing Jack.

To put it simply, our approach to Jack's behaviour and other problems three-tiered one:

First comes diet and general good health including adequate sleep and food - this is essential as if his diet, in particular, is off then nothing else is really effective.

Second comes the behaviour modification. I believe a lot of poor behaviour in children is caused by not being able to understand their environment. It seems to me that all effective behaviour modification systems provide not only rewards and punishments but more importantly they organise and simplify the social environment for all players. This consistency enables children who have trouble reading those around them to understand what is happening and they are therefore able to comply.

And thirdly, medication is the icing on the cake. It does cause Jack persistent appetite suppression and sleep problems. (The appetite suppression can be a good thing for parties though as he will only pick at plain chips and have a bit of lemonade if on medication!)

Once again thank you so much for your books - and for the great website, and please sign us up for your newsletters, discussion group and kids discussion group!

- Alison, Queensland

Community-funded research

Many thanks to the following, who provided funding and support for this study:

  • The Rotary Clubs of Darwin, who recognised the value of this research and generously paid for the special order of 300 identical loaves of bread, commercial cold storage, behaviour rating scales and the supervising dietitian.
  • Fiona Shanahan of Master Coaching after-school coaching centre, who donated an office for the duration of the study.
  • Margie Turner of the Darwin ADHD Support Group, for photocopying.
  • Paediatrician Dr Alan Ruben, who donated his time and scepticism to help with the study.

Sue Dengate's time was also donated.