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Are Artificial Food Colourings REALLY Bad?

Food Colouring

Looking at the ingredients labels on bottles tins and cans when my kids were little would have me literally scream inside and look around carefully for the bad mother halo replacement to be plonked on my head if I chose to feed them something with horrific artificial content.

I’d plonk the offending food items back on the shelves and carry on sanctimoniously with my shopping.

Food additives seemed almost impossible to avoid unless we made everything from scratch.

All of my boys suffer from ADHD along with the other things they live with daily.  I’d spent a lot of time and effort researching what is good and what isn’t for them, and still I got it wrong.

Giving the boys a Fruit Shoot would have them bouncing off the walls and heading for the roof.

At one time, Haribos being fed to my boys would see me looking for the nearest bolt hole to sit out the impending devastation that someone else’s mother has wreaked on my home in the aftermath of their feeding my kids things I’d asked them not to.

I really didn’t give a monkeys about sugar.  A sugar rush was NOTHING in comparison to some of the effects of other foods their bodies seemed to send them begging on their hands and knees for.

Additives have to be assessed for safety before they can be used in our food and drink, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re all ok for every person.   Due to EU laws, all food must be labelled clearly in the ingredients section, but here too, I found it difficult to tell the difference when there are several terms that can be used for the same thing.

I quickly learned that there were ingredients to avoid, and others that didn’t matter too much.

The Food Standards Agency has also said that consumption of mixes of some artificial colourings with the preservative called sodium benzoate could also lead to an increase in hyperactivity in some children.

The artificial colours they identified were:

  • sunset yellow FCF (E110)
  • quinoline yellow (E104)
  • carmoisine (E122)
  • allura red (E129)
  • tartrazine (E102)
  • ponceau 4R (E124)

The FSA states

“A European Union-wide mandatory warning must be put on any food and drink (except drinks with more than 1.2% alcohol) that contains any of the six colours. The label must carry the warning ‘may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’.”

As a family, we’ve noticed a big difference with sunset yellow and sodium benzoate.  It rules out a lot of orangey / yellow coloured drinks, but the kids are glad now that some of the things they used to be banned from, they can now eat.

  • Eating smarties – or rather not eating them was a major upset when my boys were little, but now they can.
  • I believe Fruit Shoots have made their drinks more child friendly, but as we’ve not used them for years, I have no idea how much better they actually are.
  • Haribos seem to have new labels on their sweets too, but I’ve not checked closely enough to see just how many additives they’ve removed.

I’ve a lot of respect for the companies actually making the effort to provide good substitutes for artificial colorings in food.  I wish more would do the same, and consider doing away with monosodium glutimate too as that gives me a headache.

Research was also undertaken by Southampton University which suggested eating or drinking some artificial food colourings could be linked to a negative effect on childrens’ behaviour.

The FSA has amended their advice to state:

” If a child shows signs of hyperactivity or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), eliminating the colours considered in the Southampton study from their diet might have some beneficial effects on their behaviour.”

Nobody knows more about the effects of some additives and foods on our individual children, but if you need to find out more about the research, it’s available on the FSA website.

Chronic and acute effects of artificial colourings and preservatives on children’s behaviour


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Things I think ALL Parents should know about Foetal Alcohol & ADHD Children.

This is a cup of coffee and a biscuit type post.

Have you ever wondered what behaviour characteristics are common to a lot of disabilities?   Many problems, such as Foetal Alcohol and Attachment Disorder, Pervasive Development Disorders  and Language Disorders which are common in Adoption have more pronounced issues along the same lines, but these are things that we should all keep in mind when we are dealing with vulnerable and sensitive children.

You need  remember that not all vulnerable children act like vulnerable children and may act aggressively.   It is our job as adults, not to judge every child by the impossible standards set by children who are not within the special needs arena.

Once a child attends school, the issues and problems that they face increase by startling amounts.   Suddenly they are faced with the sector of society that many of them want nothing to do with in life, but are forced into inclusion.  There are some children, and some situations where inclusion works, but the extent of help within our school systems for these children is just not good enough in  many cases.

If we add the pressure of social acceptance and the pressures put upon them by teachers who want them to meet academic targets, we can see that it is easy to ask too much of children who are not mature enough to deal with it.

Behaviours that can be seen regularly with many of these disabilities are spread across the spectrum, and one or two of these put together is not going to be recognised as a disability.   When we are seeing lots of them together, warning signals should be sounding in parents, teachers and friends heads to get help for them.

You don’t have to listen to me to tell you how many children are being failed by our education system due to costs, you can ask any teacher on a day off with a dry white wine in his/her  hand.

I have heard people on social media, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime and making all sorts of accusations about the people who say they should not be drinking alcohol.   Well, l can tell you, that life with a foetal alcohol child can be sheer hell for everyone concerned.

Remember this post when you think about picking up a glass of wine once you know you are pregnant.   The only thing the medical profession can agree on is that they DON’T know how much alcohol might affect any child.   From that, I read that it could be one glass or it could be 10 glasses a day every day.  All children and their tolerances are different.

Contrary to common belief, most foetal alcohol children are probably not born to mothers of raging alcoholics.   Most are likely born to women who think that  a few glasses of wine regularly won’t do any harm.    Sadly, those women tend not to admit having the glasses of wine when they are pregnant and they underestimate it to doctors.    Foetal Alcohol Effect as a diagnosis, I suspect is one of the least diagnosed conditions that there are out there.  I can see that most of them are diagnosed as having other conditions that are much more socially acceptable to talk about.

Nobody should hide behind that.  Every mother knows if she drank alcohol when she was pregnant.  If your older children have many of these symptoms, then think seriously about what you are trying to get in place for your children.  Pretending it is ADHD when it is Foetal Alcohol might not get them the help they need, and if they have both conditions, then they are really going to struggle. And don’t read into this that every ADHD diagnosed child should really be FAE because that would be very very wrong.

Being diagnosed as foetal alcohol effect – which does not have the facial symptoms – is not socially acceptable though, is it?

Who is going to admit it to a doctor, and how many doctors are going to bring that up with a parent?  It is the responsibility of the parent to swallow what they did, accept it and get their children the help that they need – before it is too late.  This is the list that applies to a certain lovely little lad that I know with foetal alcohol effect.   There may be more symptoms, but I can only tell you what I know about.

On the surface, unlike the children with Full Foetal Alcohol Syndrome who are much more obviously affected, with more profound special needs, the foetal alcohol effect children look unaffected.  Many of them seen to have good speech patterns, they tend to learn to read and write easily although they often struggle with the comprehension, and they tend to be able to make their daily needs perfectly well-known.

  • ADHD is a common side effect of Foetal Alcohol.  They are not the same thing.
  • Very young children with FAE are very high needs and over demanding. They are often the kind of children that even at the age of 3 +, you cannot leave them in a room long enough to have a pee.
  • Problems with school work and learning academic work, tending to be struggling understanding concepts.
  • Difficulty making sense of some commands that are given.
  • Speech and language problem at times.
  • Difficulty controlling impulses.  Rather like not being able to put the brakes on something and charging ahead without thinking.
  • Short term memory issues.  Learns concepts and then forget them again.
  • Under developed conscience.  Does not see how what they do might have an effect afterwards.
  • Doesn’t see the point of having to adhere to rules.
  • Struggles to deal with feelings of anger or inadequacy and may react with rage.
  • Any anger from anyone else may mean they react the same way.
  • Easily influenced and usually keen to please people which makes them very vulnerable.
  • Extreme reactions to being told no, not today, not getting their own way.   In most cases it is far and above the reactions of non foetal alcohol children.  Even in mild cases, it could show as being overly stubborn.
  • Low self confidence and high drive to be accepted and may take the blame for things to be popular.  May also struggle to tell the truth and be used as a scapegoat by other children as their short-term memory makes them forget the sequence of events, and nobody believes they can’t remember something that happened 30 minutes ago.
  • Teachers lose patience with them as they learn something, then a few weeks later may forget it.
  • They often turn into perceived bullies as other children often taunt them when they learn the weakness, and the Foetal Alcohol child then gives the extreme reaction to the situation and gets punished instead of helped.  The other children know that by the time they get back to class, the FAE child will struggle to get the sequence of events right.
I have recently been made aware of one other characteristics that affect many children and that is the one on sugar cravings.  I know one foetal alcohol child who very much has that, and he will steal to satisfy his cravings for sugar.  It was the first time that I had heard that it was a secondary effect of  FAE.
I had to read it in a book.  Thank you Brenda McCreight for your book on Recognizing and Managing Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome / Fetal Alcohol Effects – A Guidebook.
How enlightening was it to actually know that it was a behaviour that is quite common with the condition.
I don’t doubt that this is hard reading for some of you, and others may feel some guilt at what the possibilities are for your children if you drink alcohol.  I don’t have those hang ups as I did not give birth to my children, but if you suspect that is what your child, or children have got, swallow your pride, see it through and get them the help they need.
And if you are pregnant and drinking alcohol, then stop now.  If there is any damage done already, at least it will stop when you do.   I really don’t care if you think I am the overbearing Pregnancy Police, because I live with the effect of someone else’s drinking and how it devastates lives, and I don’t want it to happen to your children.
I will leave you with the words from @melaina25 from Transatlantic Blonde who  hit it on the head in my last post about FAE when she said that there has never been a foetal alcohol baby born to a mother who didn’t drink alcohol.
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Foetal Alcohol in Newborn Babies – Do you know the possibilities?

I have had much to do with this issue recently.  I am aware of the effects, the guidance and the common sense.  Having never been pregnant, I have no idea how I would have reacted to drinking alcohol if I was pregnant, but what I do know is, that it is worrying when someone who is 7 months pregnant tells you to lay off when you query how much they are drinking, and tells you that if they drink 10 alcopops a day, that it is nobody else’s business, because it is “their” body.  You do begin to wonder where the rights and wrongs of the legal status of the new baby to come really are.

Do you know how much alcohol is too much when you are pregnant?

Do you know how you would live with a child who has either foetal alcohol effect, or foetal alcohol syndrome? 

Would you be able to control the situation, or would you wash your hands and walk away?


It is not just any one disorder, but it has a spectrum of degree, similar to autism, in the depth of severity.  The syndrome itself will usually show facial abnormalities, failure to catch up with their peers, and mental problems with learning difficulties and impulsiveness.

The effect, is a milder form of the disease, however just as difficult to live with, and may or may not have facial deformities.     It is said to be the most common reason for mental and behavioural problems with children, however, that can never be proven. 

Babies with foetal alcohol can be delayed, cry excessively, have weak grasp with trouble sucking and feeding.  Brain damage can even lead to epilepsy.

Approximately 70% of FAS children have very severe hyperactivity and often poor behaviour, head banging, rolling, or rocking.  It is possible that they could also be diagnosed with ADHD, or Attachment Disorder, or actually a few other things – when we are really talking about foetal alcohol effect.  There are so many disorders that “could” be attributed to similar symptoms.


Usually, the more alcohol that is drunk, the higher the risk of damage.   What that does not take into account is the genetic, or predisposition to the possibility. 

Women tend to keep prolonged alcohol use secret, and it is difficult to get help if nobody knows that someone drinks.  It is hard to say if a few drinks, or a few binges will affect any one child growing in the womb. 

My point is, why take the risk of learning difficulties, behavioural issues, deformities and the life struggle that it brings, when it is easy to take the possibility out of the equation by simply not drinking?

I have spent much time with foetal alcohol children.  Did you know that any alcohol that is drunk, passes easily to the foetus, and every growing baby is at risk as their liver is not able to absorb the toxins.

I have not put any guidelines down, as they change frequently.  The only thing that people can be sure of, is that you don’t know how much alcohol will affect any one baby.   All parents of special needs children worry that it is something that they did that caused the disabilities, so why people take the risk of being able to flog themselves for life with the possibility they caused a disability is beyond me. 

There is nothing anyone can do about a session of hard drinking  before they know they are pregnant, but surely, once people know they are pregnant, it is silly to keep on going and taking the risk.   

How many people live with the “it won’t happen to us” motto?

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ADHD Mythological Pathways


After seeing a few tweets and posts surrounding ADHD and the stereotypical way they have been described, I feel compelled to “right” what I see as a wrong.

ADHD is a condition that affects the brain. There is a chemical called dopamine in the brain. In ADHD children, that chemical is lacking or low. It causes the brain to misread signals and signs, and makes it difficult for children to calm their brains long enough to take in much of what is going on around them.

It also leads to increased frustration as many of the children who suffer are normal or high intelligence, but simply can’t focus long enough on something to be able to fully grasp the correct meaning.

Loud noises can irritate and distract them, to such a level that they are in pain. Their brains can often suffer with short term memory loss, but once something has passed into the long term memory, it is usually there to stay.

Children with ADHD on its own tend to be socially excluded on many levels. They can make inappropriate responses as their brain is just getting to the answer of the first question someone asked, when the asker is now on Q3.

They often lack the ability to think before they speak or act.

Women could relate more if they could imagine their hormones all out of whack – all the time, and multiply that effect many times.

Far too often, I see, hear, or read about people who think it is an excuse for bad behaviour.

They often also seem to think that Ritalin is a drug that calms down bad behaviour.

Those of you who have read this far are either interested, or keen to find out more. Well done for wanting to understand of a condition that is hyped out for the wrong reasons.

To finish, I am going to take the Ritalin debate. People who don’t know, seem to think it is prescribed to “calm down” badly behaved children.

That is completely the wrong impression. For ADHD children (and adults) and with other disabilities with similar brain issues, the medicine replaces the dopamine that is missing in the brain, and appears to calm children down. It doesn’t. What it does, is like insulin to a diabetic and replaces what the body is missing so that you see them on the same level as their non ADHD peers.

Give Ritalin to a child who is not ADHD,  and with a normal dopamine level, and it will actually make that child hyperactive – the drug would be adding extra to their normal level of dopamine. Think giving a normal child massive levels of sugar.

If you give an ADHD child too much Ritalin, then it will also hype them out. It can be a case of trial and error to hit on the right dose, as each child who suffers can have a different level of dopamine missing.

I hope I have done my bit to dispel some of the myths running around about ADHD, and if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch. People using ADHD as an excuse to run a child down should think about how much damage that does to real families coping with a real medical issue.

So there you have it.