Additives around the world

Travelling in the USA - some hints for travellers (July 2014)

Additives in Europe (Germany and Spain) 2013 by Sue Dengate

A colourful report on food in Nepal 2007

Food in Ireland 2006

Around the world with teenagers 2000-2001 by Sue Dengate

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Travelling in the USA - some hints for travellers (July 2014)

I love the USA and have enjoyed some lovely holidays there, but since going Failsafe two years ago the thought of taking my kids to the land of orange cheese has been more than a little daunting.  After reading about Nurse Naomi's trip to Europe last year I was inspired to get organised, get prepared, and give it a try.  And last week we arrived home after a wonderful trip to Los Angeles, New York City and skiing in Colorado with our 7 year old daughter, 4 year old daughter and 8 month old son- five flights, three weeks and all Failsafe.

If you are interested in how we did it (many of my ideas come from Nurse Naomi) we did not eat at any restaurants, no takeaway food and no airline food.  My main concerns were for food on the flights (two international and three USA domestic) and what to buy once we were there.  We ended up eating really well, enjoying some new things, and no reactions (except one afternoon/night of silliness that may just have been tired kids).

Ahead of time we:

-Looked at websites for the airlines, USA Border Security, TSA (domestic USA) and Australia Travel Smart.
-Researched the Fedup website and joined the USA Failsafe FB group.
-Read a great website I found called Fooducate that gives full ingredient lists for many USA products.
-We knew that in the USA we could get fresh chicken and vegetables but we weren’t sure if we could easily find bread and other staples (that were Failsafe) so we posted a box of food to our longest stay and we packed our bags with plenty of snacks and meals that keep outside a fridge.
-We arranged a letter from our doctor to the airlines, but we did not need this and were not questioned at all about the extra food we were carrying, having a cute baby in my arms might have helped.

On the road and in the air we just did the best we could to feed everyone.  Before some of the flights we were able to prepare food to take with us, sometimes we had cooking facilities and at other times our hotel didn’t even have a barfridge.  We didn’t want to rely on finding suitable shops while walking around unknown cities with tired kids and bags of ski gear and car seats so we used food that we took with us wherever possible, if we could score a lettuce to put in our Mountain Bread then that was great. One morning when we left our accommodation my handbag contained morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, breakfast for the following day and morning tea again for myself and the three kids for two long flights that took us home.

Examples of some of our food ideas (note, we are full Failsafe however we are ok with dairy and wheat and also tolerate mild cheese and bananas):

-Coming from home we had homemade foods like waffles (frozen in a ziplock bag with the syrup already on), muesli bars, boiled eggs and dips (hommus, cream cheese with chives).
-On the go we relied more on packets, like a dinner of pre cooked rice (vacuum pack by Sunrice, organic brown rice cooked with nothing else added and keeps unrefridgerated) with a tin of four bean mix poured on top and sliced up pear and hard boiled egg.
-Airline staff can sometimes heat things and can give you a bag of ice if you need to keep anything cool.
-At one hotel we bought some hardboiled eggs from the restaurant the night before an early flight and kept them in an ice bucket in our room overnight, they were mashed and wrapped in Mountain Bread for breakfast on the airport shuttle.
-Lunch could be Mountain Bread wraps made on the go using small packets of rice malt syrup and cashew butter, and if you can tolerate bananas most coffee shops sell them.
-Packet snacks like chips, pretzels, cashews, dried pear, Milk Arrowroot, Walkers Shortbread and Special K (dry for nibbling) were eaten in vast quantities.
-UHT milk poppers were great and were the only thing questioned by TSA (I only had to open one to show them, we took several with us and I even had some left to bring home on our last flight). We also used these to make up bowls of Weetbix or Special K for snacks or breakfast.
-Wherever possible I would prepare sandwiches with cream cheese and chicken or with rice malt syrup and cashew butter and freeze them to take with us (they would be defrosted but still cold by mealtime).
-We took shake packets of pancake mix with us and after a late arrival in NYC we cooked these up for dinner without having to stop at a shop.
-Take plastic containers and cutlery so you can eat anywhere and a little packet of carob powder and white melts so you can take the kids to a cafe and make babycino from a cup of hot milk.
-For the kids we took an empty doona cover to sleep inside and spare pilowcase each because some hotels use very strong detergents and we have had very itchy kids on some occasions, we had no problems this time.

Shopping in the USA I was very impressed by the range of organic products and lovely breads.  Make sure you can read labels and keep a printout of the full list of additives so you can look up ingredients by name (it seems to be common practice to leave the number off the jar and use the 'more natural sounding' name of a nasty ingredient instead).  We bought chicken, vegetables, fruit, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, pasta and bread, so that when we were at accommodation with fridge and cooking we could eat very much like we do at home.

So go ahead and book that trip!  For us the planning meant happy kids eating safe and familiar foods and who were therefore able to enjoy all the other experiences of travelling. The big one wants to go skiing again (and did not stay awake jittering all night from the local food), the middle one wants to go back to ‘Moo York’ and the baby won’t remember it but at least he had settled sleep because his breastfeeding mummy wasn’t eating orange cheese.

Thanks to Bronnie who is happy to help This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Additives in Europe (Germany and Spain) 2013 by Sue Dengate

Artificial colours

Since 2008, Europeans have been required to display the warning may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children on foods containing any of the Southampton Six artificial colours (E102, E104, E110, E122, E124, E129). So on our recent trip to Germany and Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail, I was keen to see this warning with my own eyes. What a surprise! I couldn’t find any of those colours at all in German supermarkets.

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As in Australia, that doesn’t mean foods are safe. There are still artificial colours in use, and you have to know what to look for. Sweets that don’t have a ‘no artificial colours’ label probably contain artificial colours other than the Southampton Six, such as the E133 (brilliant blue, Blue#1) in M&Ms made for the European market.

And speaking of brilliant blue, here’s another way to get artificial colours in Europe: toothpaste. Colgate’s Komplett Ultra Weiss (doesn’t that mean Ultra White?) lists CI 77891, another name for artificial blue E131 (patent blue, blue #5), not permitted in foods in Australia and ‘to be avoided by those with a history of allergy’ in Additive Code Breaker. I wonder how many consumers realise it is there.

I had expected traditional village cooking in Spain, but Spain appears to be happily adopting the use of food additives and processed convenience foods. I found the Southampton Six warning on a bottle of artificial orange food colouring powder with names tartrazina and amarillo anaranjado instead of numbers E102 and E110. It is intended to be used in paella – we were outraged one night when a coloured packet paella was served up to us – and there are more foods containing artificial colours available.

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Bread preservative

As always I am in awe of the marvellous German bakeries. Why is the bread so good in Europe? This is the answer from a young English chef we met on the Camino:

‘When people ask me why French bread is so good compared to English bread, I tell them that the French buy their bread three times a day, but the English buy their bread once a week.’

It is the same in Spain. The beautiful fresh bocadillos (like French baguettes) were preservative free. However, anything in packets – bread, muffins, croissants - contained preservatives. ‘Desayuno plastico (plastic breakfast)’ complained some Spanish pilgrims when our albergue provided a meal consisting entirely of packets. I was also disappointed to find that the famous Spanish delicacy membrillo (quince paste) - typically served with sheep milk cheese - always seemed to contain benzoate preservatives.

Then there are the flavour enhancers. As in Australia, it would appear that flavour enhancers are being added as yeast extract (hefeextrakt) and possibly various vegetable-sounding ingredients, perhaps gemüseextrakt (vegetable extract). I am always suspicious about extracts, because it means they are concentrated and who knows how hydrolysed vegetable protein is likely to appear in another language. In Spain there are foods such as jamon (ham) with MSG clearly listed. I didn’t see any MSG boosters (627,631, 635, ribonucleotides) and it is possible they are much more widely used in Australia than Europe. But I was interested to read a comment about MSG in Germany by American rock-and-roll historian and writer Ed Ward:

‘What’s bothering me is how MSG has taken over German cuisine in the past 20 years. What’s really bothering me is that I’ve virtually stopped going to traditional German restaurants because I’m afraid I’ll wind up like I did after a goose ‘n’ gravy extravaganza in Leipzig one night, sweating and with my heart racing and unable to sleep.’ 

In another sign that the food manufacturers ‘clean label’ policy is happening in Europe, I found rosemary extract used as an antioxidant (Antioxidations : mittel Extrakt aus Rosmarin ) instead of synthetic antioxidants such as TBHQ E319 and BHA 320. Natural it may be, but rosemary extract is extremely high in salicylates and affects most failsafers.

Overall, my impression was that a lot of foods are not as fresh and natural in Europe as they used to be, despite manufacturers’ attempts to make them appear so. My conclusion: if possible, cater for yourself when travelling around Europe.

Further reading: warning must be used in the EU: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:354:0016:0033:en:PDF

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A colourful report on food in Nepal

"I love trekking because of the stunningly beautiful scenery, simplicity of life, exercise and friendly people. But as processed food begins to reach this remote kingdom, I am also interested to observe the introduction of food additives into subsistence diets....." - (Sue Dengate 2007)

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[465] Trip report: food in Ireland (November 2006) (November 2006)

We are just back from a 5 week trip around Ireland with our three children and my mother. From my experiences there in 2001 and 2003, I must say that it is getting a lot more difficult to find failsafe food in the supermarkets and markets in 2006. I found their labelling to be informative, but you must know the names of the additives as they only print those, not the numbers. My children often picked something up and, because they are used to scanning for numbers, thought the product was safe for us. I am glad that I was familiar with the names for the nasties or we would have been caught out many times. Fresh food is in glorious abundance, but unfortunately a bit on the expensive side. We could only find one brand of bread that was acceptable, with no 282 or whey or vinegar, of course it was the most expensive to buy. There were no crisps that we could find that were failsafe, or biscuits. Cakes were all heavily coloured and decorated, with the results that we ended up cooking our own snacks. Fast food is expensive and very colourful, with virtually no safe choices available - well, for us anyway. I am very glad that we rented a house with a great kitchen. If we were not able to self-cater, I don't think we would have had such great behaviour from the children - can you imagine 5 weeks of being their only companions and not one single argument!! – Sharon, Melbourne

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Around the world in 2000-2001 by Sue Dengate

In 2000-2001 my family - including two teenagers (named changed to protect privacy - completed a 15-country, six month "supermarket tour" around the world. In Australia, all of us suffer from food intolerance, especially our daughter who has been diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder. At home she controls her symptoms with a very limited diet. I was interested to compare food additive use in other countries and was surprised at the huge differences. Eating without adverse effects was much easier in some countries than others.

In Nepal, India, Bali and Egypt we ate in cafes and restaurants most of the time. Local traditional foods had no effect on us including Rachel whose behaviour was perfectly normal except when we made the occasional mistake with processed treats. In Europe, we mostly catered for ourselves but were surprised and pleased at the lack of food additives, especially in Italy.

There are many more food additives in the UK than Europe but there is also a greater awareness of their effects than Australia. My favourite souvenir is a grocery bag from the Iceland supermarket chain which proclaims "WE HAVE BANNED ARTIFICIAL COLOURS AND FLAVOURS".

Food in the USA is loaded with additives. We spent the first three weeks in motels but couldn't eat a single item in the free breakfasts. Two of us developed rashes from the toxic products the sheets are washed in. We self catered but had difficulty buying even the most basic foods (rice, rolled oats, bread) without harmful additives. After three weeks we bought a small tent and - with a sigh of relief - ended our visit to the most high-tech country in the world sleeping under giant redwoods and cooking over a campfire.

My conclusion: ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder and many of the "minor" health problems which affect people in affluent countries are clearly associated with what we eat and the chemicals with which we surround ourselves. Europeans are far better protected from harmful additives than residents in Australia, NZ, the UK and especially the USA. The Europeans countries demonstrate that It is possible to enjoy a western lifestyle without all the additives the food industry giants would like us to swallow. If we consumers want a fair deal for our children, we must send a clear message to manufacturers that we don't want harmful additives in our food. How? REFUSE TO BUY!

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Country by country

BALI, INDONESIA

The traditional simple peasant diet of Indonesia, based mainly on rice, fresh vegetables and the occasional chicken, is mostly failsafe. For those who are gluten-free it is a dream. The difference between food in Bali and Australia quickly became obvious. We could see where our food came from. "Fresh" means caught, picked or baked this morning instead of thawed, taken out of cold store, or full of preservatives. Eggs taste good, we watched our fish of the day arrive in fishing boats on the beach every morning, and fresh vegetables picked in the early morning appeared on restaurant tables by lunchtime. Varieties of fruit such as bananas, pineapples and papayas are different: traditional, smaller, sweeter, picked ripe, and to be eaten within a few days. Everything tastes better than its Australian equivalent.

We mostly ate at our hotel, knowing from past experience of their high hygiene standards and reasonable cost - about $A1or 50 US cents per person per meal. Within a few days we were puzzled to discover that we could tolerate many more salicylate-containing foods than at home. Tolerance levels vary depending on variables like total chemical load, illness and stress. Were we tolerating more because we were on a low-stress holiday, breathing fresh sea air or because the food is naturally lower in both man-made chemicals and salicylates? The answer would seem to be a combination of these.

We avoided any processed foods. This included the coloured jam and fruit juice provided for breakfast. The latter contained colours and preservatives not listed on the label, revealed earlier when Howard had visited the juice factory. Typical meals included fresh grilled fish with rice, boiled potatoes or chips, chicken satay or deep fried, cap cay (stir-fried vegetables which were usually cabbage, shallots, carrot, Chinese greens). We ate fruit in between meals - bananas, papayas and the Balinese tiny sweet roughleaf pineapple as well as snakeskin fruit, which are so bland they must be low in salicylates. Gluten-free local snacks made from cooked sticky rice and/or coconut are available from local shops or tokos.

MISTAKES: We stuck to fresh additive-free food in Bali except for one plate of vanilla icecream. The next morning Rachel woke like a bear with a sore head and remained in full oppositional mode until 4 pm - a wasted day, probably due to 160b annatto colour.

FUMES AND AIR POLLUTION The Balinese like to use mothballs as air fresheners in drawers, cupboards and bathrooms. These are highly toxic. We removed them immediately with a tissue and avoided touching bare skin. Twenty-five years ago I explored a quiet and uncrowded Bali on a motorbike. Now the roads are jammed with trucks in a haze of black smoke and families with babies on motorbikes, breathing air that must be high in lead. We limited sightseeing because of the traffic. Our driver on one occasion was a former schoolteacher who abandoned teaching because 'if you leave the children alone for five minutes, they fight'. This is the new Bali, city kids exposed to air pollution and fast food. In a remote Indonesian village, an exchange teacher described her class of 50, so attentive 'I could have taught in a whisper'.

MORE INFO Families can spend a relaxing mostly failsafe holiday free of cooking and washing-up in Bali. We stayed at Alit's Beach Bungalows with good restaurant at the unfashionable end of Sanur beach (beautiful gardens, rundown tennis, minigolf, pool, spa, Sanur beach walk); Amerta cottages in Toyabungkah at the foot of active volcano Gunung Batur (stunning lake views, hot springs, volcano climb) but not restaurant (eat at the cafe with the Lonely Planet endorsement); and Ananda Cottages with restaurant in Ubud (walks, monkey forest, Legong dance in palace). Don't drink the water or ice, or eat salads or fruit which you haven't peeled yourself or in a clean trustworthy restaurant - 'Bali belly' is common. We limited ourselves to fish and chicken and avoided red meat or pork. The Balinese diet is naturally dairy free and mostly gluten free.

SINGAPORE

Inflight catering on the Singapore Airlines flight from Denpasar started with nibbles containing artificial colours 102 (tartrazine), 110 (sunset yellow) and 133 (brilliant blue) - and airlines complain about the increase in air rage. The main meal was fresh and plain and decaf was available. We always carried extra snacks to cover flights, fresh fruit, plain biscuits, and a six-month supply of raw cashew nuts. In Singapore as in Indonesia, food additives are a problem. Individual names or numbers are not listed, just vague information like 'contains permitted preservatives'. At my talk at the Australian International School, families confirmed that it was difficult to buy additive-free processed foods. This makes it difficult to keep children failsafe, as all children need occasional treats.

NEPAL

Nepal has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world but some of the highest mountains and, until recently, some of the happiest people. Like most visitors to Nepal, we went trekking in the Himalayas, walking for 5-8 hours nearly every day for 26 days. Highlights included an ancient walled fortress city in the spectacular high mountainous desert near Tibet, and a high snowy mountaineer's base-camp. There were no cars, few motors or radios, very little electricity and processed food only along trekkers' routes. As Rachel said 'this is like travelling in another time, not another country'.

Nepalese food is simple, rice-based, fresh, and largely unprocessed 'real' food. The national dish of dahlbhat is a combination of rice, dahl or lentil soup with mixed vegetables such as potatoes and Chinese greens stir-fried in curry type spices, and a vegetable pickle sometimes accompanied by curd, a type of natural yoghurt made from allowing unpasteurised buffalo milk to stand for 48 hours. The majority of Nepalese who are still peasant farmers eat this meal twice a day with meat and chicken curries when available (usually not). It is a healthy, low-fat, satisfying, cheap meal and with our newfound tolerance for salicylates, we ate dahlbhat at least once a day, except for Amon who hates curry.

Gluten-free food included local rice puddings, curd, fruit salad, eggs, fried potatoes, corn porridge, buckwheat pancakes (faava roti, only available above 3000 metres, you often have to ask for them, with the superb local apricot or apple sugar-free paste but called jam). I always carried 'churra', pounded rice flakes which can be added to tea or any hot drink for an instant gluten-free breakfast or snack. Other foods included oat porridge, banana or lemon sugar pancakes, chapattis, Tibetan bread - like fried donuts - mixed vegetable omelette (usually shallots, chinese greens, carrots), boiled potatoes, chips or French fries, and the local version of pizza - often a chapatti with yak cheese and sliced local ripe tomato.

We avoided fried rice and instant noodles, which were likely to contain MSG. For treats there were occasional chocolate cakes, lemon meringue pie and baked cheesecake (curd, eggs, sugar, lemon juice) nearly always made with fresh natural ingredients. Commercial treats for tourists, definitely limited because they all contain artificial flavours, included Mars bars, Werthers Original Butter Candy, AlpenLiebe caramels, Callard & Bowser toffees, McVities Hobnob biscuits. Bananas, mandarins and Red Delicious apples were the fruit in season at various altitudes. The bananas were small, ripe and ready to eat like Balinese bananas. The Red Delicious apples were tree-ripened, and, well, delicious. And it was a real treat for us to eat tiny organic mandarins with no ill effects.

MISTAKES There were two mistakes during our six weeks in Nepal - skin rashes for Howard and Amon the day after eating pizza in a very westernised restaurant in Kathmandu; and oppositional defiance for Rachel both times after eating chocolate cake from the Chomrong guest house - unlike others this turned out to contain commercial biscuits.

WEIGHT LOSS Walking for hours every day for a month while eating healthy low-fat food, surrounded by magnificent scenery and interesting people must be the easiest way in the world to lost weight. The extra 5 kg I'd been trying to lose just fell off and we all emerged super fit.

GLUTEN TOLERANCE When we left Australia I had been gluten intolerant for 3 years following a gastrointestinal infection. This is an increasingly common way of developing gluten intolerance. Despite eating a gluten-free diet, I was so sensitive I would react even to toast crumbs in the butter and had failed my most recent gluten challenge a few months before leaving Australia. While travelling I followed a strict gluten-free diet and ate buffalo curd as often as I could, several times a day if possible, reasoning that unpasteurised curd contains huge amounts more - and many different types -of the 'friendly' probiotic bacteria which are supposed to promote intestinal health in western-style yoghurt. After two months in Asia a gluten challenge showed that I had redeveloped a tolerance to gluten which I have now maintained for twelve months. Anyone with gluten intolerance will understand what an amazing relief this is - for me the whole trip has been worth it just to be able to eat bread, pasta, pizza base and oat porridge again.

TRAVELLERS' DIARRHOEA In countries with unsafe water like Nepal, travellers are at great risk of gastrointestinal upsets including loose tools, watery diarrhoea, nausea and/or vomiting. We carried our own lightweight water filter (AquaPur, about $200) and followed the instructions under Bali info. Because I have a history of irritable bowel symptoms I was especially careful and at the first sign of problems I switched to boiled rice and black tea (because the water is boiled). (At one restaurant a dish called 'Doctor's Advice' offered boiled rice, boiled vegetables, black tea and curd.) Perhaps because of this I had almost no problems compared to the others.

CHANGES Twenty five years ago, processed food was virtually unknown in Nepal. The first supermarket was just about to open and Coke had just been introduced. Some processed food is available in Kathmandu and on major trekking routes. Processed foods most likely to be eaten by locals are instant noodles with MSG and coloured sweets for children. I saw some irritable, restless, sleepless children this time, which would have been unthinkable 25 years ago. I also met a shopkeeper who ate instant noodles and complained of frequent migraines. Like her counterparts in Australia she had not considered food additives as a cause yet MSG is strongly associated with headaches. Trekkers are also at risk especially those drinking large quantities of Tang orange drink (tartrazine colour, 102) or instant noodles (MSG).

ALTITUDE AND ADDITIVES It is common for trekkers to blame high altitude for headaches, irritability, sleeplessness and stomach upsets yet these are all common reactions to tartrazine and other additives. It is even possible that altitude increases vulnerability to additive reactions in some people (this has never been investigated) - Howard and I both suffered severe restless legs after eating airline food on one flight. These symptoms abruptly improved when the descent began. Commercial flights are pressurised to about 2500 metres.

MORE INFO There were people aged from 4 to 80 years on the trail, some in family groups up to 3 generations, or up to three families trekking together to provide friends for the children. Many had been trekking before. Very young children can get bored and the danger from illness is greater. Teenagers prefer a challenge such as reaching a base camp. If you take precautions against contaminated food and water, trekking can be a healthy, mostly failsafe way to spend a holiday. See Lonely Planet Guide 'Trekking in Nepal'. We trekked to Jomsom, Kagbeni, Muktinath and Annapurna Base Camp. Other highlights: great temple views and banana curd in Sunny restaurant, Bhaktipur; great lake views and fruit salad curd in the Pumpernickel cafe in Pokhara.

INDIA

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January in Northern India, two weeks before the Bhuj earthquake, was bitterly cold. On the long bus and train trips from Nepal to Delhi we saw villages in fog, landscape in fog and the Taj Mahal in fog. The food in India is similar to Nepal but with greater variety. It is often very delicious. A standard meal (thali) includes several vegetable curries, curd, rice and pickles. Roadside snacks commonly include a chickpea curry. There are also the marvellous wheat breads of Northern India, including chapattis and naan, and from Southern India, rice pancakes like uppams. Rachel loved the Indian sweets, based on boiled milk and sugar. Tourist restaurants provide local versions of western foods as in Nepal. There is a wide variety of fresh and dried fruit and nuts.

MORE INFO India is excellent for gluten-free, additive-free, dairy-free and amine-free meals. If you like curries and can tolerate a certain amount of salicylates (which we can't normally) this is a great place to eat, as long as you can avoid 'Delhi belly'. See Lonely Planet Guide to India. Our highlights: The rooftop restaurant at the Host Hotel in Agra with excellent views of the Taj and good fruit salad curd. The Magic restaurant in Agra for excellent Indian food. In New Delhi, the Grand Hyatt did a superb brunch, courtesy of Lufthansa and the thick fog that delayed our flight.

EGYPT

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'While there are many wonderful things about Egypt, food is not one of them ... that said, it is possible to eat well (not to mention cheaply) in Egypt if you can accept the lack of variety and pack your taste buds off on holiday' - Lonely Planet Egypt guide book. We don't agree. It is true that food in Eyptian restaurants is mediocre, but there is a trick to eating in Egypt - when you want to eat find a street cafe which is so crowded with locals that the waiters are literally running. Order what the locals are eating and you will get some of the best, freshest and cheapest food in the world.

The fertile Nile delta grows memorably delicious fruit and vegetables especially tiny juicy strawberries, oranges, and sweet ripe red tomatoes which haven't been seen in the West since the old varieties were superceded by supermarket packable types - and which we haven't eaten at home since going failsafe 8 years ago. Meals are usually served with the wonderful Egyptian bread, a dip such as hummus and salad. We loved the falafels, shwarma (with lamb) and 'fool' (the Egyptian equivalent of baked beans on a French roll). Takeaway rice puddings were a big favourite with Amon and Rachel. Vegetable and lentil soups were failsafe and delicious.

The standard tourist breakfast is tea or coffee with rolls, cream cheese, jam and maybe an egg. When she tasted a Bedouin meal while camel trekking, Rachel exclaimed 'this is just like Irish Stew!' (from Fed Up). The best meal award goes to a cafe next door to a fish market for a plate of exceedingly fresh grilled fish with rice, salad, bread and hummus. It was easy to self-cater for lunches from fresh produce markets and bakeries.

MISTAKES The jam is all preserved with sodium benzoate even the - yes! - pear jam. Rachel managed a tiny serve every day for about ten days until a double serve took her over the top. Gluten-free in Egypt would be extremely difficult unless you were self-catering.

MORE INFORMATION Lonely Planet guide to Egypt; Highlights - Acker Saa cafe soups, meals and rice puddings in Cairo, Al Mina cafe in Sigala (port of Hurgada on the Red Sea), Sinai desert camel trek from Dahab, temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Luxor and other Pharoanic sights.

THE MAXOLON DISASTER At the end of our time in Egypt Amon suddenly developed severe diarrhoea and nausea. During a ten-hour bus trip, he took the usual travellers'medicines: Lomotil for diarrhoea and Maxolon (metaclopramide) for nausea. As we reached Cairo he began to display a variety of alarming symptoms. Painful muscle spasms of the face and neck, upturned eyes, locked jaw and sudden stiffness of the back and neck became progressively worse. With Amon unable to see, walk or breathe properly, we crawled through traffic to the Anglo American hospital. 'Our intelligent Amon - he looked so retarded - I thought he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. I couldn't believe anything that bad could be reversed', Rachel confessed later. After thorough assessment, sympathetic Egyptian doctors suggested 'side effects of a drug'. Amon recovered within four hours. On the plane to Germany the next day, Rachel developed similar nausea. Believing Lomotil to be the culprit. We allowed her to be treated with Maxalon on the plane and at the airport. A few days later she was also given Maxolon in a drip we were told was glucose and vitamins. By the time she got home she had developed the same alarming symptoms as Amon. The doctor refused to believe our reports of a drug side effect and prescribed extra medication. (When we finally obtained a Maxolon leaflet in English, it was all there - the side effects clearly described with the instructions 'tell your doctor' These side effects are quite common with both psychotropic and gastrointestinal medications and called tardive dyskinesia (or movement disorders).

EUROPE

After Egypt, Europe seemed like another world, a place where fruit and vegetables come from the supermarket and varieties chosen for transport and lasting not eating qualities ('These aren't real bananas', said Amon). We also noticed just how many more salicylates (concentrated in alcoholic drinks, juices, dried fruits, sauces and flavourings) and amines (in expensive animal foods) are consumed per day in our highly processed, high protein western diet. We had to cut down on our salicylate and amine intake considerably but could still manage many more treats than at home.

The biggest surprise, though, was the lack of harmful additives in European food. I can recommend a European holiday! It was wonderful to be able to walk into gelateria - icecream shops - and bakeries for foods such as Berliners (jam-filled buns - not like the fatty, stale additive-laden Australian version) to buy a wide range of foods knowing that they would be additive free. Products which would contain annatto colouring (160b) at home are either colour-free or contain the harmless betacarotene (160a) instead. The European version of Magnum icecreams (and all the other vanilla icecreams I have seen) are safe. Even Lays chips which in Australia contain so many harmful antioxidants (319 and 320) we use them as a challenge, are safe in Europe - unless they are failing to declare their ingredients which seems unlikely. Unlike in Australia, fish fingers do not contain added colour. Croissants are likely to be made with pure butter.

The only bread in Europe I found containing calcium propionate (282) was a highly processed white sliced loaf in a supermarket in Pompeii - although, alarmingly, the ingredients listed only calcio propionato - no E number, no indication that it is a preservative and the English translation said only 'calcium'.

Italy, especially Tuscany and the two-day Cinque Terre walk, was among the highlights of our world trip for all of us. In Tuscany we stayed with a friend in a farmhouse and enjoyed real Tuscan cooking, mostly failsafe for us. Rachel commented that she finally understood what real, fresh food is all about. We ate eggs straight from the henhouse, vegetables from the garden, hand-made pasta, home-made Tuscan bean soup, and our favourite - a round sheep's cheese called pecorino, white and seemingly failsafe, which we collected from the shop the same day it arrived and ate on the beautiful Tuscan bread, no preservatives there.

One reader asked "Didn't you feel awful going to Italy and not being able to eat pizza?" Italian pizzas are very different from those in Australia. They have much milder toppings and do not necessarily have tomato on them, especially not a highly concentrated tomato paste. We were there in winter, and as toppings are fresh and depend on what is in season (not a lot) mostly our pizzas were cheese, sometimes with pickled artichokes or a smear of mild stewed tomato and once pesto. There was even a gluten free pizza made from chickpea flour. Often there were several types of cheese, much milder than Australian. The mozzarella was white and I would say completely failsafe, compared to ours, which is moderate to high. There was a whole range of fresh, white and probably failsafe cheeses that we have not encountered here. We also ate gelati (Italian all natural low fat fruit or nut flavoured icecream, my favourite was hazelnut, everyone else went for chocolate and strawberry).

MISTAKES. Italian food is naturally very high in salicylates and amines. We did have to be careful and at least twice during our three weeks there we crossed our threshold, following up with some totally failsafe days, but we still had an excellent time.

With only a few days left of our European holiday, suggestions that the new Foot and Mouth outbreak in Britain was out of control increased. At an internet café in Venice we watched as Youth Hostels, B&Bs, campgrounds and ALL the walking trails in Scotland - where we had intended to spend two weeks - closed under our astonished eyes. We cancelled most of our trip in the UK and stayed the extra time in Europe.

AUSTRIA

After a scenic stay in Venice and some snowy hikes in the Italian Dolomites, we crossed the border into Austria. Home of the famous Sacher Torte (rather like a chocolate sponge cake covered in chocolate, but flatter, not as sweet and much better presented than we would do it), Austria was also excellent for other continental cakes. I generally chose the baked cheesecake, Amon a plain sponge with fruit topping and the others went for the chocolate tortes. Amon's account of Vienna: "We also visited the Museum of Something. They have a museum of everything here...The history of tobacco, lacemaking through the ages, anything. Anyway, the one we saw was about paintings. We had some cakes (Austria being legendary for its cakes and coffee) and then saw the paintings... I was impressed by the decor - it beat the Vatican and that lot, in fact. Not as big, but more tasteful... It went downhill with the paintings, but the rest of the visit was great." Another highlight of Austria was the salt mine tour near Salzburg (literally, salt mountain) which emphasised the importance of salt as a preservative. It was this factor which enabled the Salzburg fortress to survive a long siege during the middle ages without running out of food.

GERMANY

Back into Germany and the wonderful German bakeries. It felt like total freedom to order anything we wanted without having to worry about additives. We visited Freiberg in the heart of the Black Forest. Here McDonalds have actually placed their establishment inside the tower of the medieval city gates. This outlet wins my prize for the most in-your-face example of American cultural imperialism. The locals are furious. After a 3.5 kilometre cable car ride to the top of a mountain we ate Black Forest cake - what else? - before setting off in the lightly falling snow for a five hour walk through pine forest back to our camp. Amon wrote: "Probably the oddest walk I've done, and the views were great... All downhill, too. Six days in Europe left, then to England. It'll be nice to get back to an English speaking country, and no mistake."

MORE INFO EUROPE - Lonely Planet 'Europe on a Shoestring', Rick Steves 'Italy'. Highlights: Hoge Veluwe National Park - ride free white bicycles through beautiful forests to a top art gallery; Hill 62 in Flanders, original WWI trenches; Paris Tour of the Sewers, Italy Cinque Terre overnight walk, farmhouse in Tuscany; skiing in Germany and Austria http://www.kleinwalsertal.de/ ; motorhome rental in Germany, much cheaper than England, Europcar.

BRITAIN

Amon's impressions of London: "The weather is cold and stormy … we went to Greenwich, where GMT starts. It was pretty good, despite the rain … The underground's falling apart. A lot of slowdowns, broken tracks, even a track fire … We went to Kew gardens on Sunday. Since it was sunny (probably the first time here since 1995), and this sun fell on a weekend, thousands of people decided to go. We had to queue for everything from the entrance to the toilets. Please don't make a pun. You've no idea how many times I heard that one today (What, Queue Gardens?) Inside, it was good - 300 acres of trees, grass, and strange birds. We spent most of the day walking round with the parents saying things like "My word, a Japanese maple!" … We took the ferry back. There's a lot of flooding. People cycling in two inches of water, someone launching a boat from a suburban street... It made the journey back more interesting, that's for sure. With the raised river level, we cleared the lowest bridge by only two inches

…We went to Buckingham Palace. The guards look pretty weird, let me tell you ...Anyway, there was a wishing well thing and someone had chucked in a credit card. LOL? We nearly ROTFLed! … London's starting to feel almost like home. You wouldn't believe the British accents - they sound right out of the movies. It's oddly nice to listen to. Place names are still strange, though. When I first saw the digital display on the train say "This train is for COCKFOSTERS" I thought it had been hacked into or something..."

Foot and Mouth dominated the countryside and the news. On our one trip out of London we were told we could walk only on busy roads. Newspapers were full of little else. Head of forestry, David Cox, blaming farmers and farm subsidies for the swine fever, BSE and F&M progression, suggested "the farmers have ruined our countryside - now we have a chance to take it back". A timely book by well-known broadcaster John Humphreys reflects the cynicism sweeping Britain. Called "The Great Food Gamble", it explains exactly what agriculture is for: swelling the profits of major corporations in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries; spicing fresh foods with an assortment of pesticide residues; helping breed new races of superbugs through profligate use of antibiotics; and increasing demands on the health service by creating a near epidemic of degenerative conditions.

It doesn't even produce cheap food, it produces devalued food.

ADDITIVES IN BRITAIN I had expected additive use in Britain to be the same as Australia, but no. Although much worse than Europe, and definitely not good enough, it is nevertheless much better than Australia. Yet again I felt betrayed by ANZFA. We are told repeatedly that food additives are necessary. If they're so necessary, how can other countries do without them? Some of my favourite souvenirs from England: a supermarket carrybag from Iceland which proudly proclaims in large letters "We have BANNED artificial colours and flavours"; from Sainsbury's, the Coles equivalent, a Blue Parrot Café brand label (the brand is committed to "restricted colours and/or preservatives, only natural flavours, no flavour enhancers", (although many products are unfortunately very high in salicylates) which proclaims "Sainsbury's policy of reducing additives is welcomed by the Hyperactive Children's Support Group". Well done, HACSG! Sainsbury's also have available, in some outlets at least, more organic food than I've seen in Australia. I saw frozen organic preservative-free sausages, and we regularly ate Sainsbury's plain (no stuffing, no flavouring) rotisseried chicken. Bottles of Fanta in the UK contain failsafe betacarotene colouring (160a), instead of harmful orange colour, sunset yellow (110) used in Australia. Likewise, Magnum icecreams are coloured with beta-carotene instead of the harmful annatto (160b) used in Australia. The ugliest of all additives - bread preservative - isn't established yet. About 75% of the loaves in Sainsbury's were preservative-free, although a corner shop opposite Kew Gardens had no preservative-free bread, except Indian Naan. While in London I gave a talk to HACSG. Excellent on additives, they are not so strong on salicylates - which makes for a less effective diet in our experience.

USA

worldyosemite

We flew into New York (Amon: "a bunch of dark skyscrapers huddled together on the horizon, very dramatic looking"), hired a car and headed north on the first of three loops which would take us through 5,000 miles, 2 countries, 16 states, 7 national parks and about 40 supermarkets. Everything is bigger in the USA - skyscrapers, cars, parking lots, kid's behaviour problems (I saw - in a lift - the most hyperactive kid I have ever seen, and that's saying something), trees, canyons, waterfalls and hospitality. In New Hampshire I gave a very successful talk hosted by the local PTA. More than 100 people attended, one child improved dramatically within 24 hours (by avoiding the bread preservative) and others have contacted me later to say "I did what you said and my son is a different child". Trip highlights: Kev and Pat Little's wonderful hospitality and failsafe cooking in New Hampshire (Pat is our USA network contact); Statue of Liberty, Trump Towers; New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont scenery; Boston museum of science; Niagara Falls; University of Illinois virtual reality site; the Painted Desert and Navajo country, Colorado; giant Redwoods; camping and hiking in national parks, especially Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon and Yosemite; and American libraries - all with free internet access, cheap books for sale, and superb facilities.

THE SCENERY Amon (re Colorado, Arizona and Utah): "We've seen some amazing scenery - I can now say, with some authority, that this area of America holds some of The Best Views In The World. It's odd stuff - has to be seen to be believed, really … We went walking into the Grand Canyon, which is much bigger than I'd thought, just for a day trip. We even dumped all of our warm clothes - it's quite hot in the GC. Who needs warm clothes, anyway - it's a desert, right? The weather helped us get down there - during the hottest parts, a convenient cloud cover would pass over. We reached Indian Gardens, the small oasis style jungle, feeling we were blessed. The bottom of the canyon's actually quite nice - I always thought it was really barren, but there are flowering cacti and good trees near the streams, too. The journey back up was tiring, but the views spectacular. Only as we approached the top did we feel apprehension, for the storm overhead darkened with every minute lost. (Do I sound like Lord of the Rings here?) We traveled on, for we had neither raincoats nor jumpers, and nowhere could we stay but the top (maybe Yoda?). As we approached the top, tired and hungry, a cold wind blew, and... bugger it... it started to snow. Snow!! To make a long story short, we staggered back to the car (in T-shirts) and drove to our campsite. A true Dengate saga. I'm thinking about making a book about this. I could call it "Indiana Dengate and the Last Holiday". Or "The Dengate Holiday: A Comedy of Errors"."

FOOD IN THE USA - THE BEST Maine lobster, Ben and Jerry's triple caramel chunk icecream (the fudge is not failsafe, but good enough for a treat), Wild Oats natural vanilla crème sandwich cookies, Stoneyfarm (I think) organic yoghurt with six different types of probiotic bacteria, natural maple candy, San Francisco sourdough bread, and Magnum icecreams - with no added colours at all (which means Australia's Magnums are the only Magnums in the world containing a harmful additive) There are some excellent foods in the USA if you know where to find them. But for ordinary people we saw in average supermarkets all over the country then the choices are appalling.

… AND THE REST Here is a country in denial about food additives. How can the people who put man on the moon be so ignorant about the effects of what they feed their kids? Artificial colours are used like water even in some so-called healthy foods like bagels, yoghurt and especially in breakfast cereals. BHT, banned except for three products in Australia, is in nearly everything, including weaning food for babies - I nearly cried at that, those poor children. It is very, very difficult to buy real, untampered-with food in the average supermarket. As a food technologist, Howard was even more outraged than I. The American food industry has gone way past the original intention of food processing, which was to provide a wider range of nutritious food to consumers. Howard was particularly angry about the lack of safe basics like bread (most supermarkets had no preservative-free sliced white bread at all. We had to look for Italian or French speciality breads, not always successfully) and rolled oats. We only found one supermarket in the approximately 40 visited which sold real rolled oats, the rest were flavoured, except for the regular (guar gum, sugar and colour 150, failsafe but why do it?). It was even difficult to buy rice except in little packets with flavour sachets. And the fruit - well, no wonder Americans have to eat everything with added flavours. On our trip we had encountered many third world countries with delicious fruit. The best were the tiny tree-ripened red delicious apples in Nepal. Now we tried the worst - although large and glossy looking, the red delicious apples were so revolting that we threw away most of those we bought.

WEIGHT LOSS How does anyone stay slim in the USA? (Of course, the majority don't.) Portions are huge and fat contents are over the top. By cooking for ourselves and walking a lot, we managed to avoid too much damage, but walking is hard to do because - except in national parks - the US is designed for cars not pedestrians.

HOW TO SURVIVE FOOD IN THE USA Ignore the brainwashing and cook for yourself. For $10 extra some budget motel chains offer a room with a microwave and fridge but mostly we used a tiny Camping Gaz or Coleman hikers' stove (some people carry small electric frypans for motel cooking) and a tin opener. When cooking was not permitted, we cooked on the verandah or in parks. Our standard US day: breakfast (we abandoned the free motel breakfasts after a few days) - rolled oats in boiling water, cooked rice, Rice Krispies, Weetabix, milk or soymilk, tinned fruit, decaf; lunch (many states have really good rest and picnic areas) - preservative-free bread, Philly cheese, shallots (called green onions), cucumber, lettuce, carrots, spring water; dinner - pot of home-cooked potatoes (or bought jacket potatoes) with butter or Philly cheese, and tins of corn, peas and plain tuna. Amine reactors limited the tuna, salicylate reactors limited the corn, carrots and cucumbers (still more salicylates than we could ever eat at home - must have been the holiday). When camping, instead of tuna we had wonderful campfire grilled steaks, and finished off with toasted marshmallows under the stars. Snacks were more difficult. A big supply of Kev and Pat's apple amaranth muffins kept us happy for the first week followed by a packet of wonderful Wild Oat all natural vanilla sandwich cremes (www.wildoats.com), Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche caramel icecream, Sam's Choice Butter Oatmeal cookies from Wal-Mart, failsafe but a whopping 50% fat, Boulder Potato Company totally natural chips, Poore brothers original potato chips, Lays Classic Potato chips (with "no preservatives" in the USA ); Health Valley fat-free old-fashioned Marshmallow bars (failsafe but not popular); Nature Valley Maple Brown Sugar Crunchy Granola bars (very sweet, not failsafe but close); natural yoghurt, many excellent organic brands. After that we started compromising.

BEST-OF-A-BAD-LOT SNACKS Crown pilot chowder crackers (molasses might be a problem); Keebler (a reasonable brand, meant to be "uncommonly good" so why do they use artificial flavours. And is there unlisted antioxidant in the oil?) Crème Filled Vienna Fingers (artificial flavour, high fructose corn syrup - contains some salicylates - but only 30% fat); Keebler Club crackers (possible unlisted preservatives in the oil - and 30% fat content is high for a cracker); Lorna Doone shortbread cookies by Nabisco (artificial flavour and 45% fat); Keebler Chips Deluxe choc chip cookies (not too bad if you don't react to amines but 50% fat); Eskimo pie (chocolate coating not failsafe but it's so thin there's not much in it); Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Chocolate Chip Muffin Squares (not failsafe because they contain applesauce and chocolate, but we could manage them as holiday food); Sunbelt chocolate chip chewy granola bars (definitely not failsafe because they contain salicylates, amines and sulphites in coconut, honey and chocolate, but better than competitors which contain BHT and heaps of fruit).

AIRLINE FOOD A United flight from London and three subsequent flights within the USA suggested that it is not the airline but the point of departure that determines the quality of in-flight food. The meals from London were very good, unlike the next three flights, especially from Newark which would have been fine (steak, green beans, rice) if it hadn't been cooked in a sauce of what tasted like pure MSG. Just a few mouthfuls and I had a migraine the next day.

THE CHAINS Good food is very expensive in the USA, bad food is cheap. We bought the occasional grilled steak, jacket potato and salad meal, but $A140 for the whole family was way too much for our budget. Occasional desperation led us to food chains. At Burger King, we survived the chips. Thanks for the detailed ingredient list, guys, but nothing is failsafe. A meal at Taco Bell - who knows what's in it, but with that colour, the bright orange cheese doesn't look OK - led to reactions all round. Thinking of Vienna in bitter cold and sleet one day we tried Denny's decaf with cheesecake and Hershey chocolate mousse (the chocolate bar you can eat with a spoon) and spent the next 24 hours worrying about death by fat overload. At Dunkin Donuts, I recommend nothing but the decaf.

AIR POLLUTION Although reputed to be improving, air pollution was much worse in the USA than I expected, not just in industrial centres like Detroit but also San Francisco, Denver Colorado and the Grand Canyon. Locals from Pennsylvania to California expressed their feeling that their country had become too overcrowded, and it did feel like that. On the plus side, Americans definitely have the best control of secondhand cigarette smoke in the world, with nonsmoking hotel rooms, restaurants and public transport - unlike European trains in which smokers and nonsmokers sit at either end of the same open carriage.

VISUAL POLLUTION Driving in some of the USA brings to mind a poem by Ogden Nash:

I think that I shall never see

A billboard lovely as a tree.

Indeed unless the billboards fall

I'll never see a tree at all.

In amongst all the industry, strip development and commercial establishments clamouring for customers with ever-higher signs, McDonalds outlets - which look so offensive in other settings - fitted right in.

WATER POLLUTION The Niagara River above the Falls on a still afternoon was a stunning sight with low sunlight gleaming on arrays of ice floes like a scene from Antarctica. It's hard to realise that this is one of the most polluted waterways in the world. Over the last 25 years, scientists have been measuring the level of more than 75 different toxic substances found in the eggs of Herring Gulls that feed and nest along the Niagara River and the Great Lakes. All the toxins measured in the gull's eggs have declined, especially levels of highly toxic hexachlorobenzene, dieldrin and PCBs which have dropped 90% or more, so cleanup efforts are succeeding. They would want to!

CHEMICALS This must be the Chemical Capital of the world. By day two, Amon had abandoned motel sheets because of mild itching, and slept in his silk sleeping bag liner. I was OK until I used Tide laundry powder twice in laundromats. After that, the combination of bleach, laundry powder and fabric conditioner in motels plus the Tide in my clothes led to nasty rashes which came and went - it took a while to figure out the cause. When I switched to Woolite and my sleeping bag liner, the rashes slowly cleared up. Judging by ubiquitous advertising for allergy and migraine drugs, we're not the only ones affected. On reaching more-or-less the end of the snow, we bought a $99 Wal-Mart dome tent and four sleeping mats ($2.99 each).

Camping in beautiful national parks and forest sites for the next two weeks was low-chemical, cheap and MUCH more scenic. So that is how we ended our trip to the most powerful and high-tech country in the world: quietly sleeping in a small tent under huge trees, and cooking over a wood fire.

Some Australian-American terms

biscuits - crackers or cookies

cordial - a drink base similar to Kool-Aid but sold as a liquid

cornflour - corn starch

cold pressed - expeller pressed

fairy floss - cotton candy

fruit and vegetables

choko - chayote, vegetable pear

marrow - squash

pawpaw - papaya

rockmelon - cantaloupe

shallots - green onions

sultanas - golden raisins

swedes - rutabaga

grilled - broiled

icypoles - popsicles

icing sugar - confectionary sugar

icing - frosting

lamingtons - cubes of sponge cake, normally covered in chocolate and coconut

lamington tin, baking tray, swiss roll tin - similar in size to the American standard 13" x 9" pan

muesli - granola

paracetamol (eg Panadol) - acetominophen (egTylenol)

Rice Bubbles - Rice Krispies

rissoles - beef or lamb patties

sports drinks - thirst quenchers

soft drinks - sodas

soda water - club soda

scones - biscuits

sweets, lollies, confectionery - candies

Nuttelex is a dairy free margarine made from safflower, sunflower and cottonseed oils, water, salt, emsulifiers 322, 471, flavour (vegetable), vitamins A and D, no added colour. It is very well tolerated by most food sensitive people. While in the USA I found a similar product, if you can tolerate soy. Shedd's Willow Run dairy free soybean margarine contains liquid soybean oil and partially hydrogenated soybean oil, water, salt, soybean flour, lecithin, betacarotene, vitamin A. For distributors, phone toll free 1800 735 3554.

Golden syrup is not available in the USA. You can make your own, see failsafe syrup, p.00

Some failsafe food in the USA not available in Australia

natural maple candy

Wild Oats natural vanilla crème sandwich cookies (www.wildoats.com)

many brands of uncoloured vanilla icecreams

many brands of plain potato chips with no antioxidants (unlike Australia, these are always listed in the US)

POSTSCRIPT

We arrived home a few months before September 11. The countries we enjoyed most - Nepal, India and Egypt - are now not recommended for tourists.


Further information
see Factsheet on artificial colours around the world

www.fedup.com.au

The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians http://fedup.com.au/information/support/dietitians

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