Australia's disaster in education: is food the issue?

Authorities are concerned about Australian students' poor performances on international tests. A quarter of Year 4 students failed to reach the minimum standard in reading . Australia was placed 26th out of 45 participating nations in reading levels, lagging behind other English speaking countries except New Zealand. Results were also troubling in science and maths. http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/australias-disaster-in-education-20121211-2b7y8.html

What do Australia and New Zealand have in common? Their food regulations. Thanks to FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) we have some of the highest permitted maximum levels in the world of certain additives, especially the bread preservative 280-283 and sulphite preservatives 220-228. Artificial colours that have been banned in the UK are still used here and the warning "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children" that is required on certain artificial colours in Europe is not used in Australia.

Any additive that has an adverse effect on attention will lead to underachievement in some children, see reader story below.

Twenty years ago, when more than 800 schools in New York City removed additives from free school lunches, the scores on national achievement tests improved 16% and the number of children classified as learning disabled halved. http://fedup.com.au/images/stories/NewYorkCityPublicSchools.pdf

Yet Australian children continue to tuck into their additives. If you wanted to create a nation of underperforming children, you could hardly do better than to encourage the use of food additives that are associated with learning problems.

READER STORY

"The introduction of preservative 282 in purchased bread coincided with a decline in our daughter's abilities. Her bread intake increased until she was eating about 8 or more slices/day and her performance decreased until we were able to get very little work out of her as she was unable to concentrate for more than about one minute at a time.

In desperation I called her teacher who mentioned the television report on 282. I did further investigation on the net, and read your site. The result was that we returned to using our bread maker after not having used it for nearly two years. After about ten days, we had a different child. She started concentrating! She finished in 10 minutes what she previously couldn't finish in 4 hours. Her spelling started to improve as did her handwriting. She also finally learned to ride a two-wheeled bike!

As you can imagine, we were thrilled. After two years of underachieving and barely being grade level, our daughter is finally starting to accelerate and achieve some of that potential. I am grateful we had the assessment as it shows how much she was behind. We have become very angry that this preservative is allowed ..." - from story [329] http://fedup.com.au/stories/2004/329-282-two-years-of-underachieving-with-282-calcium-propionate-july-2004