Food Colouring Survey

Food Colours Labeling in Australia

This post is sponsored by Nuffnang.

Food Colours Labeling in Australia
As you may have noticed from reading this blog, I like to read up info to help me parent my kids. Info on education, info child development, info on parenting techniques and the like. But one area where I do have a deficiency in knowledge is all those numbers that you see on the ingredients lists of packaged food. I find them really confusing and don’t have a great handle on what they all mean. To compensate for my lack of knowledge I have started just trying to avoid foods that have a long list of numbers on them – hardly a scientific approach. My gut feel is these aren’t good for my kids, so they are best avoided.

Sure my kids still eat treat foods that have lots of numbers on the list of ingredients, but their consumption is definitely in the “sometimes food” category. But I would really like to know more natural/artificial colours. I think all parents are wary of artificial colourings and the effect they have on their kids – raspberry cordial anyone????

Natural vs Artificial Colours

The European Union has much stricter regulations on food labelling than we have here in Australia. They actually have six food colourings being voluntarily phased out due the impact they have on activity and attention in children. Despite evidence about the dangers of artificially coloured foods to children’s behaviour, a number of large companies in Australia still have not made the switch to natural colouring.

As I look to educate myself on artificial food colourings, I also want to help educate other parents on how to identify natural/artificial colours too. As part of this process and with technical guidance and advice from a leading natural colour supplier, I am conducting a survey on food colouring and would love as many Australian parents as possible to complete the survey. Once the data has been collected we should have a better understanding of parents concerns and their level of knowledge on the topic.

It is a short survey of only 12 quick multiple choice questions and you can complete it below. (If you are reading this via email or RSS feed you may need to click through to the blog to complete the survey.) The survey will be open until Thursday 14th July 2011 and I will post in early August a summary of the findings on the blog, along with more info that I am researching on natural/artificial colours, including tips on what to look for on the labels of food and drinks.

Thank you to everyone who completed the survey, the response was fantastic. I am now analysing the results and will post the results in a couple of weeks. I will place a link to the results post on this page as well.


  1. says

    As a parent with children who are very susceptible to artificial colours and flavours – affecting both their digestion and their behaviour – I am always vigilant about reading labeling. And generally find I have to make pretty much everything they eat from scratch. I have also found that one of my children has a very strong reaction (digestion) to the natural colouring 160b (annatto). It is a natural colouring, but is strongly associated with mulitple behavioural and digestive issues in both adults and children – and is wide spread in a large number of ‘healthy’ foods.
    I am also constantly annoyed by the loopholes that exist for minimum labelling requirement (ie. if only a small amt is used it does not need to be listed in ingredients at all) and the fact that flavouring is trademarked and so is exempted from being listed also – so you never know what’s really in the flavouring!

  2. says

    In the survey you mentioned natural colours.
    Are you aware some of these natural colours cause issues with children who are hyper-sensative to colours as well.
    As a parent of a hyper-sensative child I have to avoid all colours to the best of my ability, which is very hard in this coloured world


  3. says

    I’ve completed the survey- made me realise how little I actually no about this issue. I do know that Aldi have removed artificial colouring from their food & we shop there when we can.

  4. says

    I have the list of numbers in my handbag – from additive alert. I am concious but not vigilant. I do believe there is so much that we don’t know and I am really interested in the behavioural aspect.

  5. Jacquie says

    My son is asthmatic and one of the first things the educators told us was to stay away from particular food colours as it could lead to an asthmatic episode or adversely affect my son. For my son, anything that has orange colouring (more so than red), sends him absolutely crazy!!

  6. says

    Our daughter came out in a rash and slept TERRIBLY after first eating yellow colouring in custard powder. It took me a while to figure it out, but once we did, it was a very obvious link. We have tried to avoid artificial colourings, and also 160b ever since then, though aren’t the type of parents to ban our kids from eating lollies at a party!
    We live in Europe now, and the difference in colouring is incredible. Here, for example, Fanta is a pale shade of yellowish orange. Maybe it’s a massive generalisation, but I do think the kids in school are much calmer and “well behaved” too… Could be wrong there though, or maybe we struck it lucky!
    Try looking in to Sue Dengates “Fed Up” book and website for further info if you need it – loads of tips, info, and recipes.

  7. says

    Have often thought that I should look into this more. Whilst my kids have no obvious signs if allergies it could certainly play a part in one sons asthma. Will enjoy keeping up with the info! Thanks

  8. says

    I’m probably not as across it as I should be, but I know that the munchkin is highly susceptible to the “attention deficit” reaction to food colourings. I just stay clear of them all. A recent “experiment” (a complete accident in which he received a red icypole as a birthday treat at pre-school) confirmed my suspicions. My normally well-behaved (although active), particularly articulate munchkin, was an incoherent, high energy mess. We were out with the two women who know him best (apart from myself and my mum) and they both commented that they had never seen him like this before. Artificial colours DO have an effect. In some kids it’s really noticeable, it’s just that the studies seem to show it does not have an effect on all kids (which is why it is so often dismissed as a problem).

  9. says

    I just completed it too and also didn’t realise how much I don’t know about food colourings. I’d have to say that I don’t feed my son much if anything with synthetic colours – I might have to go check a few packets and see how true I am with that!

  10. says

    Oh and my son can also get an “I dont care” attitude and can be very angry. Which if you look at kids today in schools can have the same issue which to me shows that diet is a strong factor.

    Yes agree on the yellow colouring. This causes very big issues.

    Also with colours the reaction can happen up to 3 days later. Some at times it can be hard pin point what has caused the outburst.

    I agree that everyone should read “Fed Up” and seriously think childcare centres, schools etc should take this issue more seriously.

  11. says

    we also avoid colours and flavours in this house. our son has asthma and i find colours in particular worsen his condition. we make nearly all of our own snacks so that i know exactly what is in them. and, like others, annatto sends both our kids balmy (even our daughter who has never really shown a reaction to any other additives). you do have to be careful of so called “natural” flavourings as well as synthetic. what i find hard is school canteen. our kids want it just because others are getting a lunch order on a friday. i really wish our canteen would clean up. the guidelines for canteens aren’t that strict and they can still stock a high percentage of food that has all sorts of crazy things in it. i would love to see restrictions and labeling laws tightened up. i am so sick of picking up a product and seeing “flavourings” listed. come on, tell us what’s really in it. when i see that it makes me think they have something to hide. great issue, thanks for bringing it up. sandra x

  12. Gin says

    My son has a stawberry allergy, so I always insist any lollies, icing, yoghurt or flavoured milk are artificial. “All natural” means it could contain the strawberry allergen. Artificial colours and flavours are safe for him.

  13. Bec S says

    I also have the list of numbers to avoid in my handbag – from the fed up website. I’ve done lots of reading into this after we realised my son reacts to ice-cream (and in particular 160b – a natural colour). So we now try to avoid all colours, along with preservatives. Very tricky – especially when out.

  14. says

    wow some of the previous commenters really know their stuff. I know I should pay more attention to particular numbers with my little boy’s asthma and his twin’s bad behaviour but they have a pretty good diet as I make most of their food. You just need to look at kids behaviour after eating suspect food to know there is something in there. in fact my eldest daughter would tell her daddy when she was younger that she couldn’t eat that or she’d go psycho – she heard me saying it too often:) look forward to hearing the results!


  15. tiffany says

    i have 3 girls, 2 of which show some textbook autistic traits, so they are already not “normal” and have great ranges already when it comes to attention span, concentration, irritability & moods. Too early to say on miss 3, but the odds are against her (a whole autistic manic/mania family anyone? lol). I bake as much as i can and when i don’t its aldi stuff. So i was clueless as to some of the shopping stuff (i can’t remember the last time we had some of the items mentioned, altho i do know there is some sunkist in the fridge! uh-oh!)

  16. says

    A topic that is high on my list of interests….I might have biased some of the results because I don’t know a lot of the foods listed but I completed it anyway. Its frightening to me that more and more food we buy and serve out families is packaged, not whole food and filled with unreconiseable ingredients. Even though I’m aware of the hidden nasties, sometimes I just get lazy or give in to the pleas of my children who think Im a mean mommy for limiting their food choices.
    Looking forward to the results!

  17. Kim says

    While generally I try to avoid additives where possible, not all natural food colourings are problem-free. My children have never exhibited any adverse behavioural problems with artificial colours (although I try to avoid them in principal). They do, however, have extreme adverse reactions to the NATURAL food colouring Annatto (aka 160b). This makes yellow, and is linked to aggressive behaviour, oppositional defiance disorder and other behavioural problems. My children become extremely aggressive and angry after consuming this colouring. If I had to choose between two products – one coloured with artificial yellow and one with Annatto – I would choose the artificial yellow every time. So natural is not always a better choice.

  18. Jennifer says

    I see another subscriber has commented on the affects of 160b on their children. I also avoid this natural colour at all costs as it sends my children feral. Its very confusing because people think because it says ‘natural food colour 160b’ then it must be ok. This is added to yoghurts, icecreams and is found in so many products – especially diary. My children are defiant, angry, and in a fog after consuming this natural colour.

    My daughter at 8 still had a strong reaction to colours. The reaction is almost immediate and gone within 48hrs, but its fast and furious. We can always tell she has eaten things like cheesels when she has gone to a party, she is so angry, teary and defiant afterwards. SHe also suffers nightmares when confuming yellow related colours.

    A good resource to discover all these food intolerances is the website and book Fed Up by Sue Dengate. Removing these foods and colours from your childs diet can assist in improving your childs behaviour.

  19. says

    Thanks again for all the info coming in. It has given me so much to think about with my own kids. Appreciate you taking the time to share your stories and tips.

  20. Marita says

    Hi Nicole,

    This is certainly an area that needs more attention. I will have to take more notice of my children to see if they are affected.

  21. says

    a quick note on vitamins too – i read that they don’t have to declare the preservatives and colours in them so i rang a company about one of their vitamins and got a list of what exactly was in it. not pretty. there were loads of colours and lots of huge words i had never heard of. when i looked them up some of them were even listed as possible carcenogenics. eeek! i find it terrible that these companies get into parents’ cupboards through their promotion of “health” but yet they do not disclose their complete ingredients list. one company told me they could never fit the entire ingredients on the label! sandra x

  22. says

    We try and avoid processed foods as much as possible and make everything from scratch with fresh ingredients. Artificial preservatives, flavours, thickeners etc can all have very bad effects as well as colours. I had to guess with so many of the items in the survey as we don’t buy anything of those products or similar.

  23. Lia says

    My son has ADHD anodyne I carry the list from Sue Dengates book in my wallet. We did the whole Failsafe diet and cut everything out, even tomatoes as they are a natural form of MSG. We have added a lot back in and I’m not as regimental as I was, but now I know the good brands from the bad and more so I know what I’m looking for and what numbers to avoid. Many companies trick you by saying no artificial flavours or colours, then they have 160b which is far worse and 621 which is msg…… Both natural, but both have devastating effects on my son. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and let him have some things, but they are definitely sometimes foods, not something we allow in his diet routinely!

  24. says

    We are very cautious on processed food given to our kids especially on artificial colouring, articifial flavour, sugar and preservatives. She would have some reaction such as hyper active, throwing tantrum, difficult to focus ect once been given these foods. We read the labels on every package and food that we bought for our kid. Anything that we dun understand in the label, we won’t buy it.

  25. says

    Having a child with lots of allergies and anaphylaxis means I have had to become v. interested in food like it or not and whats in it!

    A great place to start to educate yourself is You might especially want to check out this section of the website –

    Sue Dengate, a food intolerance expert with the Food Intolerance Network has put together some fantastic resources on the topic.

    This should start you on the track to knowing what you want to know.

    I just completed the survey but was wondering if you knew about movements by the Obesity Policy Coalition in OZ who are campaigning with Cancer Council Victoria to try and get the Fed Gov to bring in ‘Traffic Light Labelling” on Food. You can read more here –

    There is some exciting developments happening in this area soon. Let me know if you want to know more.


  26. Judy says

    My boys react to preservatives – feeling lazy one night and gave them Maccas …and paid for it for 3 days with hyped up irritable boys with so much attitude and back-chat that now no matter how tired I feel I can always find the energy to cook.
    As has been said above “Fed Up” gave me the most information
    A good cookbook “Friendly Foods” very helpful
    Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit also has the elimination diet information


  27. Penny says

    Hi Nicole, Thanks for this website – it is fantastic! I teach child studies and am about to begin an investigation with my students into food colourings in children’s food. Your research is very timely and I am really looking forward to the results so that I can share them with my students. In fact this whole blog has really useful stuff that I’m sure I will use and point my students to. Thanks again.



  1. […] through out the news cycle on Channel 7.For more info you can read the associated posts here:Food Colouring SurveySynthetic Food Colouring – We Need More Info! – survey results post.And if you haven’t […]