Benefits of an Additive Free DietWhilst we know that additives and preservatives should be avoided as much as possible in our children’s diets knowing just where – and in what guise – these dietary bad guys pop up can be a minefield.

Types of Additives

Where children’s diets are concerned, parents tend to think mainly of artificial colours or preservatives when looking out for additives, but in reality, ‘additives’ fall into many categories:

  • Acids
  • Antioxidants
  • Colours
  • Emulsifiers
  • Flavouring agents
  • Gelling, thickening and stabilizing agents
  • Preservatives
  • Sweeteners

Are Additives and E Numbers Safe?

The Food Standards Agency, the Government’s agency for advising the public about healthy eating, says that if a food product bears an E number on its label, that E number will have passed safety tests and been approved for use throughout the European Union. However, that doesn’t stop parents being concerned on the effects that E numbers have on their children.

So What Can Additives Do?

The Food Standards Agency says that certain food additives may cause behavioural changes in some children. Many parents are firmly of the belief that food colourings found in many products – particularly those aimed specifically at children – do cause temper tantrums and disruptive behaviour. Some studies have established a link between food additives and changes in children’s mood and behaviour.

In 2004, doctors at the University of Southampton screened 1873 children for hyperactivity in relation to artificial colourings and preservatives. The children were given an additive free diet for one week followed by two weeks of consuming a drink containing artificial colorings and sodium benzoate. Significant reduction hyperactivity was noted among the children during the week without the drink, and parents revealed an increase in bad behaviour when the drink was re-introduced.

The university’s findings concluded that there is a link between food colourings and preservatives and increased hyperactive behaviour in children.

What Additives Should I Look Out For?

Of course it is impossible to completely cut out additives from our children’s diet – it would be restrictive and difficult to control. But knowing what to look for helps us make informed choices and seek out alternatives.

The Dirty Dozen Campaign

Children’s organic food manufacturer, Organix, has called on the Government to completely remove additives from children’s food. They have identified the twelve most common artificial additives that appear in products aimed at children.

The Dirty Dozen (source: Organix) Colourings

  1. Tartrazine*
  2. Quinoline Yellow E104
  3. Brilliant Blue E133
  4. Sunset Yellow E110
  5. Carmoisine E122
  6. Ponceau 4R E124
  7. Indigo Carmine E132

Artificial Sweeteners

  1. Aspartame E951**
  2. Saccharine E954
  3. Acesulfame K E950

Flavour Enhancer

  1. Monosodium Glutamate E621


  1. Sodium Benzoate E211
  2. Sulphur Dioxide E220

* Tartrazine is a synthetic yellow dye found in products including squash, cordial, fizzy drinks, cake mixes, custard powder, soups, sauces, ice cream, ice lollies, sweets, chewing gum, marzipan, jam, jelly, marmalade, mustard, yoghurt. Also look out for it popping up in medicinal capsules. The Hyperactive Children’s Support Group ( believes this additive can cause hyperactivity in children.

** Aspartame is a sugar substitute. It is routinely used in sugar-free and low calories drinks. The Hyperactive Children’s Support Group claims that 21 out of 24 parents stated that Aspartame had an adverse effect upon their children.