Each week we'll bring you the explanation of a commmon food additive to help us all learn what the heck is in our food & what to avoid!

Preservative 220: Sulphur dioxide

Occurs naturally in the atmosphere and as a pollutant gas from combustion processes, sulphur dioxide is implicated in formation of acid rain and has a choking odour. Derived from coal tar; all sulphur drugs are toxic and restricted in use (in USA, FDA** prohibits their use on raw fruits and vegetables), produced by combustion of sulphur, hydrogen sulphide or gypsum; known to provoke gastric irritation, nausea, diarrhoea, skin rash, asthma attacks and difficult to metabolise for those with impaired kidney function, also destroys vitamin B1 (thiamin), and should be avoided by anyone suffering from conjunctivitis, bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma, or cardiovascular disease. Typical products are beer, soft drinks, dried fruit, juices, cordials, wine, vinegar, potato products. Similar functional properties are displayed by the sulphites (E221-E227). Other names: sulphur superoxide.


Source: http://mbm.net.au/health/200-290.htm


Annatto 160b

I was serving my kids icecream one afternoon. The label said “All natural. No artificial colours or flavours”. I thought that was fantastic until I decided to check out colour 160b, just because it was “a number”. I found there's an increasing recognition of annatto as a potentially harmful additive. Great.

What exactly is it? Annatto orange-yellow colour is a vegetable dye made from the seed coat of the tropical Annatto tree (Bixa orellana) and since it’s from a seed, it can be called natural. In Australia it is commonly used in cereals, snack foods, dairy foods including yoghurts, ice creams and cheeses, snack foods, and a wide range of other foods. It can also be called Bixin and Norbixin.

The use of annatto 160b is increasing in our food supply as artificial colours are phased out. There are concerns that annatto is considered to be a safe additive in food, especially targeting young children. It’s the only natural colour that has so far been found to cause as many adverse intolerance reactions as artificial colours and to affect more consumers than artificial colours. It has also been associated with rare allergic reactions. These adverse reactions can include skin, gastrointestinal, airways and central nervous system reactions.

The Food Intolerance Network has received many complaints about this additive, including headaches in adults and children, head banging in young children, and irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in children and adults as well as the full range listed above plus arthritis. 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.


A safe alternative.

Beta-carotene (160a) is a safe alternative. Although the adverse effects of annatto are recognised by FSANZ, our national food standards authority, their view is that betacarotene 160a is too difficult and expensive to use. Since 160a is used widely all over Europe instead of annatto, it would seem that European food companies are more concerned about the welfare of their consumers than their Australian counterparts. For example, Australia is the only country in the world where Magnum icecreams contain annatto colouring. This information is from the Food Intolerance Network and can be found at http://fedup.com.au/factsheets/additive-and-natural-chemical-factsheets/160b-annatto for loads more information.


Flavour Enhancer 612: Monosodium Glutimate

Last week I was having a lovely afternoon tea with friends and the kids were all tucking into a brand of rice crackers I hadn’t seen before. I flipped over the packet to check the ingredients for wheat (as my girls can’t eat it).  I didn’t find wheat but I found 621. MSG! Nowhere on the packet is it explicit that the rice crackers contained MSG. Manufacturers are relying on consumers not to know.  My friend didn’t.


Flavour enhancers can generally be found in chips, rice crackersnoodles, takeaway foods and frozen meals.


While most people have no adverse reactions to flavour enhancers such as monosodium glutamate (MSG, 621), consuming foods which contain them puts our bodies into a protective mode where the main focus of nutrition shifts from nutrient absorption to toxic waste elimination. People sensitive to MSG may also experience short-term reactions such as headaches, flushing and numbness or if prone to, asthma attacks. A good one to avoid I’d say!


Preservative 223: Sodium metabisulphite

As part of the worldwide attempt by food regulators to reduce sulphite intake, in Australia and Europe sulphites have been banned in minced meat although not in sausages, some processed meats (such as devon or frankfurters) and burgers which contain a minimum of 4% cereal products (also called rissoles or patties). Some butchers choose not to comply with this regulation, since sulphites are a very effective preservative, maintaining or restoring the rich red colour of 'fresh' meat long after the meat has ceased to be fresh. A NSW food authority survey found 2003 found 56% of mince samples contained illegal sulphites. To be really sure that your mince is sulphite free, you must quiz your butcher thoroughly or test it yourself with sulphite test strips. (http://fedup.com.au/factsheets/additive-and-natural-chemical-factsheets/220-228-sulphite-preservatives)


The most common preservative used in sausages is 223, Sodium metabisulphite. It may cause allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to sulfites, including respiratory reactions in asthmatics, anaphylaxis and other allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Sodium metabisulfite and potassium metabisulfite are the primary ingredients in Campden tablets, used for wine and beer making. (Wikipedia)

We have two ranges of sausages in Harvey’s – a range that contains preservative 223 (in the meat case) and one that doesn’t (they are frozen in the freezer).  We’d prefer not to have sausages with preservatives in them, but until we have increased demand for preservative free sausages, we have no choice.  So come on, come and try our preservative free sausages (plain beef, chicken, salt and pepper or pork, salt and pepper – all delicious) and let’s say good-bye to sausages with 223.  (ALL sausage mixes contain a preservative, unless stated and more often than not, it’s 223.  Check with your butcher as to what their sausages contain).

Harvey’s DO NOT use any preservatives in any other products.  We don’t like them and would never serve them to you unless we told you up front so you can make the choice for yourself.


330 and E330 Citric Acid

Is Citric Acid E330 or 330 ok? Sounds a little toxic. There’s actually no problem with the naturally occurring citric acid. Artificially produced E330 or 330 additive, depending on where or how it is produced with using sulfuric acid, many believe the product might still contain mold and sulfur/sulfites not filtered out completely during the production. For most people sulfites are safe, but for example sensitive aspirin allergies or asthma sufferers can react very severely to sulfites.

In the year 1953 Sir Hans Krebs received Nobel Prize for physiology medicine for discovering that the Citric acid in metabolic reactions acts as part in the series of compounds occurring within physiological oxidation of proteins, carbohydrates and fats and turning them into water and Carbon dioxide. Called Tricarboxylic Acid Cycle or known as the Krebs Cycle, which is involved in most metabolic reactions, where the Citric acid plays a major role.


The world “krebs” translates to English word “cancer” … and that’s what created the misunderstanding that citric acid 330 – e330 causes cancer. But in fact it does not. However, it could melt your teeth if you kept it in your mouth for long or if you consumed lots of soft drinks. It is an organic acid used as an additive in foods, in soft drinks, in beer, wine or cheese production.  Citric acid prevents bacteria growth, and gives the citric/sour flavour. Food producers use it - citric acid E330 or 330 is often added to cakes, biscuits, soups, all sorts of sauces, frozen packed and canned food products, sweets, marmalade’s, ice creams … you can find it mentioned on the packaging.


Colour 120

I was cleaning out my pantry the other day and in the process I found an old stash of cupcake decorations, which I use sometimes at my kids birthday parties.  On the label of a packet of pink and white sprinkles was “NO artificial colours, flavours or preservatives”.  Sounds ok, doesn’t it.  (Probably why I bought it) An answer to a mother’s prayer when trying to find “healthy” party foods. Alas no!   I Googled Colour 120 today and what I found was a little disturbing.  Goes to show that not everything that comes from nature is healthy, like nicotine and arsenic. Marketers will twist the truth as much as they can get away with, not pausing for a moment to think of the potential impact on the health of you and your family.


See sources for a run down of Colour 120:




Colour 102: Tartrizine and Colour 133.


In my pantry tidy up I found green food colouring.  It’s got the colours 102 and 133 to make it’s glossy grassy sheen.  Green is a natural colour, can’t be too bad for you?  Food authorities wouldn’t allow it in food if it were detrimental for your health, right?  Well apparently food authorities in other countries have banned it (because of it’s potential side effects) but not our governing bodies!  My friends and family say – Kyles its ok – it’s only a little bit, it won’t matter and maybe it won’t but reading more and more about the pollutants all around us – in our air, in our tap water, soil, oceans streams, food, maybe we need to do all we can to reduce the toxin load on our bodies, when and where we can.  In fact, just recently an American study recently found 200 pollutants in the umbilical cord of new born babies – 76 that can cause cancer, 94 are toxic to the brain and the nervous system and cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests).  Scary stuff.  Click here to see the potential damaging effects of 102 and 133.



E 122 Carmosine & Brillant Blue

My youngest daughter went to an awesome pool party on the weekend of one of her good little friends from Kindy.  Her diet is fairly restricted -no wheat, dairy, sugar and artificial colours and flavours – she can have a little, but generally pays for it when she does.  Anyway….there were small fruit juice bottles on offer for the kids, which at first glance looked ok, it was a bit hectic with 30 kids plus parents and I was feeling a bit sorry for her as she couldn’t indulge too much in the food so I let her have an Apple and Black Currant Juice (it’s a big deal for her). She was still sipping on it when she got home and it’s there I checked the ingredients – besides two preservatives and “flavour”, whatever that is, it contained Carmosine (or E122) and Brilliant Blue.  I really didn’t expect a fruit juice to contain artificial colours.  I Googled them and as I’m finding of late, things that other countries have banned (including often the US), our government permits.  Baffling.


Here’s the links to those fabulous little colous.