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Asthma - Shame on you, FSANZ!


Australia has the highest asthma prevalence in the world for adults (1).  

For children, Australia and New Zealand are in the top 4 countries in the world (2).  

Research shows the prevalence of diagnosed asthma in Australian primary school children increased massively for a decade, then decreased slightly (3).

Year       Asthma prevalence

1982         9.1%
1992       38.3%
2002       31.0%

What is going on?

Researchers can’t explain these changes - but the answer is obvious to us: asthma prevalence is strongly linked to the levels of sulphite preservatives (220-228) and other nasty additives in our food supply (4 -7)!

An Australian diet study (4) found 66% of asthmatic children reacted to sulphite preservatives. These additives increased massively during the last two decades of the twentieth century, and started decreasing just a little when our food regulator FSANZ - on recommendations from the World Health Organisation – started monitoring and reducing mostly illegal sulphite levels (8). See more about illegal sulphite use

These are some products that contain sulphites, shown in Ingredients Panel as 220, 221, 222, 223 or sometimes as metabulphite (often called 'meta').

BLOGsulphite01 canstockphoto6640850small canstockphoto9393471small  canstockphoto5754171

Reader reports

“I've had chronic asthma for 40 years … 3 months failsafe I'm so so much better“ – Ruth from story [1301]

I kicked my asthma - off all medications … We are still doing the diet 11 years later with some foods brought back in …” - Tracy from story [1301]

“I'm asthmatic... and have been drug free since we eliminated the nasties from my kids diets. First time no drugs in 30 years!” - Cristi from story [1298]

I cut out additives ie preservatives, colours and flavours, as a way of managing my daughter’s asthma" – Kate from story [1211]

After just a few days of the diet we were amazed … that my husband's asthma had dramatically improved" - Kelley from story [1110]

My asthma has gone since we started the diet ….” – from story [1073]

“I suffered terribly from additive-induced asthma from the age of 10. It took a couple of decades to realise that artificial food additives were THE cause of my condition ... I have gone from 20 puffs a day to not touching Ventolin or any medication for over a year now” - Mark, story [524] and [1080]

“I could never drink wine because it always left me with a heavy chest, flushing and I would feel every breath was an effort …. (in 20 years!) I never linked the asthma to the sulphites … I know now the worst foods for me are sausages…, wine, cold meats, certain mueslis with dried fruit. I have eliminated all sulphites from my diet for the last 8 months …  I am now off my asthma preventer and feel great …” - Yvette, from story [685]

What to do?

Researchers found that many families of asthmatic children are unlikely to stick to a sulphite-free diet (4). We can understand that. These additives are in so many foods that they are extremely hard to avoid. While parents of difficult children can be desperate enough to make heroic efforts avoiding nasty additives, one mother of an asthmatic child told me:

“he’s no trouble, he just sits there trying to breathe”

Our survey showed that most families don’t even know sulphites are related to asthma (8).  Surely, you would think our food regulator should be there to help. But no – it is the opposite. It seems they are there to help the food industry while BigPharma laughs all the way to the bank.

europeG2014  BLOGsulphite02  BLOGsulphite04  BLOGsulphite03

Now, FSANZ have decided that sulphite levels in our food supply may be too low and are intending to increase them again! (9) We suggest this will lead to another asthma surge.

If we want to stop being the world leaders in asthma, we need to reduce sulphites and other nasty additives in ultra-processed foods and get the childhood asthma level to back under 10% where it was in 1982.

More info

Blog Beware sulphites!

Factsheet on asthma and food

sulphitestripsmall  Test your own mince for sulphites (at cost)

Intro to food intolerance

FREE failsafe booklet

FREE failsafe DVD

The best way to get results is with the help of an experienced, supportive dietitian, see our list of those who support a trial of the RPAH elimination diet 

In Sue’s book Fed Up: Understanding how food affects your child and what you can do about it - chapter 7 is about asthma, and it’s not only about children.

Previous blogs

Asthma linked to fast food AND food additives

Asthma drugs linked to depression and suicide in children

Asthma, wine and covid-19


1. To T et al, Global asthma prevalence in adults: findings from the cross-sectional world health survey,  BMC Public Health. 2012 Mar 19;12:204. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22429515/

2. Worldwide variation in prevalence of symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, and atopic eczema: ISAAC. The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) Steering Committee, Lancet, 1998,;351(9111):1225-32.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9643741/

3. Belmont asthma prevalence study - Toelle BG et al,  Prevalence of asthma and allergy in schoolchildren in Belmont, Australia: three cross sectional surveys over 20 years, BMJ, 2004, Feb 14;328(7436):386-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC341389/

4. 66% of asthmatic children react to sulphites - Towns SJ and Mellis CM, Role of acetyl salicylic acid and sodium metabisulfite in chronic childhood asthma, Pediatrics, 1984,73(5):631-7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6718119/

5. Even the conservative WHO say 20-30% of children react to sulphites with asthma Fifty-first meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. Safety Evaluation of Certain Food Additives: evaluation of national assessments of sulfur dioxide and sulfites and addendum, Geneva: World Health Organisation, 1999, http://www.inchem.org/documents/jecfa/jecmono/v042je06.htm

6. Melo B et al, Associations of ultra-processed food and drink products with asthma and wheezing among Brazilian adolescents, Pediatr Allergy Immunol, 2018;29(5):504-511. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29679410/

7. Andrianasolo RM et al, Association between processed meat intake and asthma symptoms in the French NutriNet-Santé cohort Eur J Nutr, 2020 Jun;59(4):1553-1562, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31147834/

8. Two-thirds of consumers (67% of  635 responses) had no idea that sulphites and asthma were related, and only 27% of those surveyed understood there was any connection. Given the public health costs of asthma, education on this topic should not be left to consumer volunteers https://www.fedup.com.au/information/fin-campaigns/consumer-surveys .

9. https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/proposals/Pages/A-short-history-of-P298.aspx

If you’d like to try diet   

We support the RPAH Elimination diet (from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney). There are 3 steps

  • elimination for 3-6 weeks
  • challenges
  • gradual reintroduction

For best success we recommend seeing an experienced and supportive dietitian from our list:      


•   People find my books and DVD extremely helpful and dietitians say it cuts an hour off consultation time if people have read my book Fed Up before they go. You don't have to buy – my books and DVD are available in libraries

•   Our free booklets show how manageable this diet can be

•   People say our facebook group is friendly and supportive: Sue Dengate Failsafe Group

Read more

Introduction to food intolerance

How to start failsafe eating

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This has been the most life changing thing we have ever done

- Janette

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Food intolerance

Some of the many symptoms of food intolerance that can be helped by diet:

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), Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), 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, Gout, Arthritis, joint pain, arthralgia Eyes: Nystagmus (involuntary movement), Blurred vision Muscles: Low muscle tone, Myalgia (muscle pain), Tics (involuntary movement), Tremor, Leg 'jiggling', 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), HyperacusisAuditory sensory processing disorder (ASPD), Paraesthesia (pins and needles), Dysaesthesia (numbness), Hypoglycemia, Salicylate-induced hypoglycemia, Epileptic seizures, Fits, Sensory symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Scents and perfume sensitivity, 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, Vertigo Sleep: Difficulty falling asleep, Restless legs syndrome (RLS), Persistent night waking, Insomnia, Nightmares/night terrors/sleepwalking, Sleepless babies, 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

Some causes of food intolerance:

Food additives: Artificial colours: (food dyes, artificial colors) tartrazine 102 (E102, FD&C Yellow No.5), quinoline yellow 104 (E104), sunset yellow 110 (E110, FD&C Yellow No.6), azorubine, carmoisine 122 (E122), amaranth 123 (E123), ponceau, brilliant scarlet 124 (E124), erythrosine 127 (E127, FD&C Red No.3), allura red 129 (E129, FD&C Red No.40), indigotine, indigo carmine 132 (E132, FD&C Blue No.2), brilliant blue 133 (E133, FD&C Blue No.1), green S, food green, acid brilliant green 142 (E142), fast green FCF 143 (E143, FD&C Green No.3), brilliant black 151 (E151), brown, chocolate brown 155 (E155)  Natural colours: (colors) Annatto (annatto extracts, bixin, norbixin, 160b, E160b) Preservatives: Sorbates: (sorbic acid 200, E200, sodium sorbate 201, E201, potassium sorbate 202, E202, calcium sorbate 203, E203) Benzoates, hydroxybenzoates, parabens: (including benzoic acid 210, E210, sodium benzoate 211, E211, potassium benzoate 212, E212, calcium benzoate 213, E213, ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate 214, E214, sodium ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate 215, E215, propylparaben 216, E216, propyl 4 hydroxybenzoate 217, E217, methylparaben 218, E218) Sulfites, bisulfites, metabisulfites: (200-228, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sulfur dioxide 220, E220, sodium sulphite 221, E221, sodium bisulphite 222, E222, sodium metabisulphite 223, E223, potassium metabisulphite 224, E224, potassium sulphite 225, E225, calcium sulphite 226, E226, calcium bisulfite 227, E227, potassium bisulphite 228, E228) Nitrates & nitrites: (249-252, potassium nitrite 249, E249, sodium nitrite 250, E250, sodium nitrate 251, E251, potassium nitrate 252, E252 Propionates: (bread preservative, mould inhibitor 280-283: propionic acid 280, E280, sodium propionate 281, E281, calcium propionate 282, E282, potassium propionate 283, E283, 'natural' preservatives in bread, cultured or fermented wheat, dextrose, sugar, flour, whey or anything) Synthetic antioxidants: Gallates 310, 311, 312 (E310, E311, E312), tBHQ 319, E319, BHA 320, E320, BHT 321, E321 Flavour enhancers: (flavor enhancers) glutamic acid and all glutamates, MSG monosodium glutamate 620-625, yeast extract, hydrolysed vegetable protein HVP, disodium guanylate 627 (E627, DSG, GMP), disodium inosinate 631 (E631, DSI, IMP), ribonucleotides 635 (E635, I&G, nucleotides)  Flavours: (flavors)  Natural food chemicals: Salicylates: salicylic acid, sodium salicylate, acetylsalicylic acid Biogenic amines: vasoactive amines (tyramine, phenylethylamine, histamine and others) Glutamates:  Natural foods: Dairy: milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, lactose-free milks Wheat or Gluten: (wheat, rye, barley, oats) Soy: Sugar free sweeteners:Sugar free sweeteners: polyols, sorbitol, mannitol

On this website, failsafe refers to foods that are Free of Additives and Low in Salicylates, Amines and Flavour Enhancers. Note that copyright applies to the commercial use of the term "failsafe" in the food and health context so as to control inappropriate use by the food and health industries.