Three key issues for food intolerant people never addressed by food regulator FSANZ

I've just had to tell a friend that the reason that they spent a dreadful night of rashes and discomfort, and had to go to the doctor and use cortisone cream, was that they had eaten (for the first time) a food containing the MSG booster number 635 called 'ribonucleotides'. I also had to tell them that this nasty additive had been approved without scientific evidence and that years of lobbying our food regulator FSANZ had resulted in no response at all. Of course they were outraged, but that won't change anything. So I thought, what are the three worst additives at present that FSANZ is ignoring?

635 Ribonucleotides "the crystal meth of MSG"

The flavour enhancer 635, a mixture of 627 and 631, is added to boost the intense flavouring effects of glutamates such as MSG by 10-15 times. Since it was released in 1994 the Food Intolerance Network has received many hundreds of reports of terrible rashes and, most alarmingly, there are several reports of sudden appearance of true allergies in people who have not experienced allergy before. Ribonucleotides are known to boost the immune system, which is why small amounts are added to baby formula. An over-boosting of the immune system may account for the tripling of Australia’s childhood allergy rates to the highest in the world since 635 was introduced. The ribonucleotides were approved by FSANZ without any evidentiary science, as a Freedom of Information process discovered.

In 2009, 107 reports were given to the Chair of FSANZ and later sent to FSANZ without any response. By 2015 there are 77 pages of such reports. There is no mechanism whereby adverse reactions to additives can require action from FSANZ. There needs to be a process which re-examines food additive approvals, particularly when approved in apparent contravention of the Act.

160b Annatto “natural yellow colour”

Use of annatto 160b in increasing use due to phasing out of artificial colours but as first pointed out in 1978 annatto is as bad as any artificial colour in its effects on the health and behaviour of children and adults. Annatto is a known allergen for some people but many more react with food intolerance symptoms, peculiarly with headbanging which may be due to extreme headaches in young children. Other frequent complaints about this additive include migraines, irritable bowel symptoms, irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in children and adults. Reactions to annatto can occur the same day but are more likely to be delayed than reactions to artificial colours, and are therefore more difficult to identify.

There is a safe alternative: beta carotene 160a which is a food colour found in many fruit and vegetables and is a precursor to Vitamin A. Due to inaction by FSANZ, a recent petition asks Streets to replace annatto with beta carotene and 2,430 people have signed it to date There is no mechanism to report continuing adverse reports and require action from FSANZ.

280-283 Propionates “preservative in everyday wraps and bread”

Mould inhibiting propionates 280-283 were introduced in the mid-1990s to allow hot loaves to be put into plastic bags. Propionates are difficult to avoid because they are in a healthy food eaten every day. In one generation Australians and New Zealanders have gone from eating none of this preservative to eating it all the time. In some people, propionates can cause migraine and headaches;  gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach aches, irritable bowel, diarrhoea, urinary urgency, bedwetting; eczema and other itchy skin rashes; nasal congestion, depression, unexplained tiredness, foggy brain, speech delay, impairment of memory and concentration, tachycardia, and many other food intolerance symptoms. Increasingly, the food industry is hiding propionates in foods as an ingredient called cultured dextrose rather than as the additive which many seek to avoid. FSANZ has taken no action on this misleading conduct.

Propionates were approved by FSANZ without any evidentiary science, as proven by a Freedom of Information process, despite the existence of sound science showing harmful effects and a credible mechanism of sub-clinical propionic acidemia. FSANZ’s view remains that “there are no safety concerns in respect to the use of propionates as preservatives” and there is no current mechanism to challenge this conclusion.

A referenced version of these issues may be seen at

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