References for articles about FSANZ (2015)

 2.            A safety first approach to food?

 2.3          Banned but not here: the case of food additives in Australia


The Object under the Act to have common rules with other countries does not translate into practice in many areas, mostly at the behest of the local food industry but sometimes because no local manufacturer has applied for permission to use particular chemicals or processes.


The most glaring example is that of artificial colours, which have been recognised as a problem since they started to be used over 100 years ago.  In the US, a quarter century review of 23 controlled studies regarding diet and behaviour said that ‘17 of the studies found evidence that some children's behaviour significantly worsens after they consume artificial colours or certain foods such as wheat or milk’ and ‘research with electroencephalography (EEG) indicates that certain foods trigger physiological changes in sensitive individuals’. The Center for Science in the Public Interest report concluded that “the obvious public health response would be to remove the ..[colours].. from the foods that children eat”.


The nail in the coffin should have been the $2 million study by Southampton University in 2007, funded by the UK Government and published in the Lancet, which famously concluded that ‘artificial colours or a sodium benzoate preservative (or both) in the diet result in increased hyperactivity in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the general population.’ The critical issue is that these were normal children who had not been diagnosed with any issues, yet their general schooling was being disrupted by artificial food colours possibly leading to lifelong learning delays and consequent adult behavioural and employment problems.


This information was enough to convince European food regulators but not FSANZ. Food containing the ‘Southampton 6’ colours in the EU were henceforth to carry the warning "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”. Food manufacturers did not want to have that clear warning on their products. Within months these colours (* in Table below) and nearly all other artificial colours had disappeared from foods across Europe and the UK.


FSANZ scientists had access to the same scientific information but declined to act, meaning that these colours are still widespread in Australian and New Zealand foods and that parents remain responsible for reading labels and ensuring that their children avoid these unnecessary chemicals.


There are 14 artificial colours currently permitted in Australia, many of which are banned or restricted in other countries.




Banned or restricted in other countries



UK, EU, previously banned in Norway


Quinoline Yellow

UK, EU, USA, Japan, Canada, previously banned in Norway


Sunset Yellow

UK, EU, previously banned in Norway


Azorubine, Carmoisine

UK, EU, USA, Canada, Japan, previously banned in Norway



USA, previously banned in Norway


Ponceau, Brilliant Scarlet

UK, EU, USA, previously banned in Norway



previously banned in Norway


Allura Red

UK, EU, previously banned in Norway



previously banned in Norway


Brilliant Blue

previously banned in Norway


Green S

USA, Japan, Canada, previously banned in Norway


Fast Green FCF

UK, EU, previously banned in Norway


Brilliant Black

USA, Canada, Japan, previously banned in Norway


Brown HT

USA, Canada, Japan, previously banned in Norway

From Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Food Additives Numerical List - (accessed April 2009) *Southampton 6 colours, **133 was not included in the Southampton 6 and so is still in limited use in the EU.


Australia and possibly New Zealand have some of the highest use of food colours in the world, certainly higher than EU and UK even before the introduction of the warning label.


Compliance also remains poor for artificial colours in foods imported into Australia. FSANZ tests in 2013 found that


·         7% overall were not compliant with FSANZ food colour regulations (88 foods tested)

·         The USA was the worst, with 14% non-compliant for colours (22 foods tested)

·         China was bad, with one in 10 foods (10%) tested non-compliant for colours (21 foods tested).


Requiring use of the EU warning label "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” in Australia and New Zealand would solve this compliance problem overnight but FSANZ were content merely to note the issue, not to propose a solution to what is a public health concern.


Legislative inconsistencies exist with incompatible naming and regulatory control of many artificial colours used in pharmacy items, making it very difficult for consumers to know which colours and how much of them they are ingesting in the name of health.  Toothpaste can even be a source of artificial colours for children. FSANZ remains inactive on this issue yet it is squarely within their stated objectives for protection of public health and safety.


Meanwhile, FSANZ reassurances about low consumption of artificial colours in Australia badly underestimate intakes due to the use of old dietary data. For example, they don’t consider intake of colour additives in icypoles, slushies, pharmaceuticals, toothpaste and even … wraps…! A mother whose son was being assessed for ADHD recently told us he ate spinach flavoured wraps. ‘I never read labels,’ she said. ‘I thought it was healthy for him.’ She’s not the only one. A majority of parents admit to buying this wrap. But it’s not healthy. The green spinach appearance comes from a combination of artificial yellow and blue colours.


A recent research paper in Clinical Pediatrics reminded us that the amount of food dyes consumed in the USA has risen from 12 to 62 mg/person/day over the past 60 years. This study criticised earlier studies that used unrealistically low amounts of artificial colours in tests of effects on children’s behaviour and learning. Swanson and Kinsbourne reported that 17 of 20 children reacted to a challenge of 100-150mg of an artificial colour mix as assessed by a learning task while Pollock and Warner reported reactions to a 125mg in 8 of 19 children based on standard parents’ rating scales. The Southhampton study used only 20-30mg to obtain significant effects on children. FSANZ has not publicly responded to this new information nor do processes exist to require a response.


There are certainly other regulatory inconsistencies between countries based on identical science information, for instance with flavour enhancers and labelling requirements, benzoates, colours, propionates and sulphites. There are also issues where old science caused legislative restrictions and subsequent science has not been able to reverse the regulation. However, given FSANZ’s narrow and inadequate definition of ‘safety’, as discussed elsewhere, it is hard to trust FSANZ’s conclusions from ‘safety’ assessments.


There are further scientific references at



3 The right to know?


3.7 Misleading claims re food additives


For those who are affected by food additives, the efforts of FSANZ are largely irrelevant as presently conducted, and increasingly so with changes in food industry practice in response to consumer concerns.


There are two reasons. One is that FSANZ’s assessments for approval operate within a deliberately narrow range of what constitutes ‘safety’ and the second is their inability to address food industry ‘gaming’ of the Food Standards Code. Both of these issues can be addressed by a review of the Act.


Taking these reasons in turn.


Scope of additive safety assessments


The top priority Objective in the Act is “the protection of public health and safety” yet safety assessments carried out by FSANZ do not include or prioritise many issues which concern consumers, leading to a loss of confidence in their processes.


Taking just one example, asthma. We have known since Roman times that sulphites can cause asthma. Australian research which used an effective baseline diet found that 65% of young asthmatic children reacted to sulphites. Even the conservative World Health Organisation (WHO) revised upward their estimate of the number of sulphite-sensitive asthmatic children, from 4% to 20-30% in 1999. Yet FSANZ permits levels of sulphites far higher than anywhere else in the world (as high as 3000mg/kg, cf maximum of 2000mg/kg elsewhere). Given that Australia has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the world, this should be a priority issue for FSANZ yet it is not, nor do they accept any public education role on the issue.


Here is an abridged list of problems linked to particular additives by consumers (see full list under references below). None of these are within the current scope of ‘safety’ when FSANZ approves additives, yet they are all of major concern to consumers. Behaviour, learning and mood dimensions are always ignored despite sound scientific evidence to the contrary:


Asthma, Frequent nose bleeds, Sinusitis, Frequent ear infections, Eczema, Urticaria (hives), Angioedema, Pruritis (itching), Rosaceae, Flushing, Excessive sweating, Sore vagina in children, Alopecia (patchy baldness), Irritable bowel symptoms (IBS), Recurrent mouth ulcers, Stomach ache, Bloating, Reflux in babies, adults, Constipation, Colic in babies, adults, Encopresis, Soiling (sneaky poos), Eating disorders, Bedwetting, Urinary urgency, Cystitis, Arthritis, Nystagmus (involuntary eye movement), Myalgia (muscle pain), Tics, Tremor, Rapid heartbeat, Heart palpitations, Tachycardia (fast heart beat), Headaches or migraines, Tinnitus (noises in ear), Hyperacusis, Auditory sensory processing disorder (ASPD), Paraesthesia (pins and needles), Dysaesthesia (numbness), Hypoglycemia, Anxiety, Panic attacks, Depression, Obsessive ruminations,  Self harm, Suicidal thoughts,  Teeth grinding (bruxism), Impaired memory, Unable to concentrate, Disorganised, Easily distracted, Difficulty reading and writing, Loud voice, Speech delay, Selective mutism, Stuttering, Repetitive noises, Poor coordination, Difficulty falling asleep, Restless legs syndrome (RLS), Persistent night waking, Insomnia, Nightmares/night terrors/sleepwalking, Sleep apnoea, Mood swings, Premenstrual tension, Grizzly or unhappy, Cries easily or often, Irritable, Uncooperative Oppositional defiance: ODD, Loses temper, Argumentative, Touchy, easily annoyed, Angry, ADHD, ADD, Autism, Aspergers, Inattentive, Restless, Head banging, Hyperactivity, Tantrums.


List of symptoms linked to food intolerance:


Airways: Asthma, Stuffy blocked or runny nose/ nasal polyps, Frequent nose bleeds, Catarrh, chronic throat-clearing, Sinusitis, Frequent ear infections, Frequent tonsillitis, Frequent colds and flu, symptoms of Samter's Triad, hayfever, allergic rhinitis Skin: Eczema, Urticaria (hives), Cradlecap, Other skin rashes, Angioedema (swollen lips, eyes, tongue), Geographic tongue, Pruritis (itching), Rosaceae, Allergic shiners (dark circles under eyes), Pallor (pale skin), Flushing, Excessive sweating, Body odour, Sore vagina in children, Alopecia (patchy baldness) Digestive system: Irritable bowel symptoms (IBS), Recurrent mouth ulcers, Indigestion, Nausea, Bad breath, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Stomach ache, Bloating, Reflux in babies, adults, Constipation, Colic in babies, adults, Sluggish bowel syndrome (feeling of "more to come"), Encopresis, Soiling (sneaky poos), Dairy intolerance, Gluten and wheat intolerance, Eating disorders (ed), anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder (BED)  Bladder: Bedwetting, Daytime incontinence, Urinary urgency, Recurrent inflammation (cystitis) Skeletal: Growing pains, Arthritis Eyes: Nystagmus (involuntary movement), Blurred vision Muscles: Low muscle tone, Myalgia (muscle pain), Tics (involuntary movement), Tremor, Heart: Rapid heart beat, Heart palpitations, Cardiac arrhythmias, Pseudo heart attack (feeling of impending doom, chest pressure, pain down arm), Tachycardia (fast heart beat), Angina-type pain, HHT Central nervous system: Headaches or migraines, unexplained tiredness, Chronic fatigue, Feeling 'hung-over', Confusion, Dizziness, Agitation, Tinnitus (noises in ear), Hyperacusis, Auditory sensory processing disorder (ASPD), Paraesthesia (pins and needles), Dysaesthesia (numbness), Hypoglycemia, Salicylate-induced hypoglycemia, Epileptic seizures, Fits, Sensory symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Symptoms of lupus Anxiety: Panic attacks, Depression, Obsessive ruminations (repetitively focusing on bad feelings and experiences from the past), Self harm, Suicidal thoughts, actions, teeth grinding (bruxism) Impaired memory: Vague or forgetful, Unable to concentrate, Won't persevere, Unmotivated, Disorganised, Easily distracted, Difficulty reading and writing Speech: Loud voice (no volume control), Speech hard to understand, Speech delay, Selective mutism, Stuttering, Repetitive noises, Talks too much (empty chatter) Coordination: Poor handwriting, Poor coordination, Frequent accidents Sleep: Difficulty falling asleep, Restless legs syndrome (RLS), Persistent night waking, Insomnia, Nightmares/night terrors/sleepwalking, Sleep apnoea Mood: Brain snaps, Mood swings, Premenstrual tension, Grizzly or unhappy, Cries easily or often, Irritable, Uncooperative Oppositional defiance: ODD, Loses temper, Argumentative, Refuses requests, Defies rules, Deliberately annoys others, Blames others for own mistakes, Touchy, easily annoyed, Angry, resentful Other behaviour: ADHD, ADD, Autism, Aspergers, Inattentive, easily bored, unmotivated, 'Unable to entertain himself', Restless, fidgety or overactive, Head banging, Hyperactivity, Fights with siblings, Difficulty making friends, Destructive, aggressive, Unreasonable, Tantrums, Demanding, never satisfied, Disruptive, Discipline is ineffective, Pervasive Development Disorder


What this means is that consumers do not trust FSANZ, even in their own surveys.


·         61% of Australians lacked confidence in organisations providing regulation and monitoring of the food supply (FSANZ Consumer Attitudes Survey 2008)

·         96% believe that food additives should be better tested before they are approved, the focus being on including evidence of behavioural, learning and other health effects before approval (648 people, Food Intolerance Network 2008)


This mistrust extends, with good reason, to the processes which FSANZ uses for assessment. Two brief examples must suffice. Between 1999 and 2003 the Food Intolerance Network asked FSANZ for the scientific evidence upon which the original approval for propionates 280-283 was based and FSANZ was unwilling to produce such evidence if in fact it exists. The Network started a formal Freedom of Information (FOI) process in 2003 with a final response from FSANZ saying "that these documents do not exist" and then, later in the letter "currently available toxicological data supports the safe use of propionic acid ….”. At the time it was considered extraordinary that the "currently available toxicological data" exists in a state of superposition, both existing and not existing to support the safe use of these additives!


The same FOI process gave the same nil response concerning the approval of the flavour enhancers 627, 631 & 635 ribonucleotides, for which the Network had received many reports of severe itchy rashes. This additive family were approved without any scientific evidence, in contravention of the Act.


Gaming of the Food Standards Code by the food industry


The food industry has understood that 80% of consumers don’t want additives in their food and their response has been not to change the food but to change the labels on the food, the Clean Label Strategy.


Now lawyers are running multiple sold-out intensive workshops to help the food industry simplify their long ingredients list, leave ingredients off the label, refine whether an additive is “natural” or “not artificial”, redefine ‘nasties’ as an (undeclared) processing aid, use the 5% rule to advantage, find ways to not declare Genetically Modified ingredients and how to achieve a clean label without breaching the Australian Consumer Law.


It helps the food industry that there is a bureaucratic standoff between FSANZ and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). If a consumer lodges a complaint with ACCC they can say that “it’s a label issue, talk to FSANZ”, who say in turn “that’s a consumer issue, talk to ACCC”...


The best current example is that of the flavour enhancer MSG (monosodium glutamate, additive 621), which most consumers claim to be avoiding. FSANZ regulates six forms of glutamates and does not regulate the other 123 ways in which this additive is added to foods AS AN INGREDIENT, as a recent survey found. That means that FSANZ is concerned to regulate less than 5% of the ways in which this substance is added to foods. Is this really prioritising consumers’ right to know what is in their food? Should consumers really need to carry a list of 129 ways of hiding an additive under different names? Should the food industry be allowed to add regulated additives as ingredients without numbers? What logical difference can FSANZ discern between a chemical added as a white powder 621 and the same chemical added in an ingredient? These are questions that a review needs to address.


Another egregious example is that of the bread preservative 282, calcium (and other forms 280-283) of propionate, which again many consumers want to avoid. In this case food manufacturers have found a way to put in the additive as an ingredient called cultured dextrose (or cultured wheat, or cultured whey, or cultured anything) and so avoid showing the dreaded number. Even certified organic foods may now contain cultured dextrose. In this case a complaint to the ACCC was successful in one sense: the package no longer claims “no preservative 282” but the ingredients list still contains cultured dextrose which is chemically identical. The front of packet claims “no artificial preservatives”. Again, FSANZ regulates the white powder 282 but if a food manufacturer can find another form of the same chemical FSANZ declines to regulate it. Should consumers need a degree in food technology to understand what is in their food?


In the current Act, the 5% labelling loophole permits food manufacturers to not declare what is in an ingredient so long as that ingredient comprises less than 5% of the finished product. Therefore, for instance, a product with 4.9% oil need not declare that the oil contains the synthetic antioxidant BHA 320 butylated hydroxyanisole. The only way to find out what is in the ingredient is to ring the food manufacturer, who may or may not inform the consumer correctly, at their discretion. The EU manages its food supply without such a loophole, requiring manufacturers to declare what it in the food, period. When the Food Labelling Review (2011) was asked to address the 5% issue, the response was that 'it may not be feasible' to fit that information on the packet. Funny that the same multinational food companies can fit this information on the label in the EU and UK! Why has FSANZ persisted with this loophole which is being exploited by the food industry to fool consumers?


As a result of an industry leak, it has been shown that a major multinational food company has used flavours as vehicles to avoid the declaration of colours and other food additives such as preservatives and antioxidants, against the spirit if not the exact words of the Food Standards Code. FSANZ did circularise the food industry in 2009, at the prompting of the Network, to remind them of their obligations but the extent of compliance remains a mystery since there is no monitoring.


These brief points show that there is an arms race underway between FSANZ as a regulator and the billion dollar food industry, and that the first Objective under the Act, “the protection of public health and safety”, is losing. Evidence has been presented that FSANZ is also failing on the second and third Objectives which are the provision of adequate information relating to food to enable consumers to make informed choices and the prevention of misleading or deceptive conduct.


There are further scientific references at  


Consumer representation


A consumer representative sits on the Board of FSANZ, always a comfortable establishment figure. The Food Intolerance Network, with over 10,000 families, is the largest consumer group directly affected by the decisions made by that Board, so it might be expected that the FSANZ consumer representative would liaise and take issues to the Board from consumers. In 25 years, this has happened on one occasion only, with no useful outcome. For the rest, 25 years of lobbying by the Network have involved many submissions, letters, meetings, workshops and even a meeting with the Chair, to no avail or outcome except that food intolerance is now briefly mentioned on the FSANZ website. No mechanism exists to place on the Board’s agenda items of vital concern to consumers, such as flawed approval processes or emerging issues with additives.



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.


There are further scientific references at