Children at one Adelaide school have been learning more than their abc's. When it comes to health, additives don't add up.
Deborah Frahn's two boys were among around 80 students who have radically changed their eating habits.
"What we did was we took out additives and preservatives from the children's diets," says Deborah.
For two weeks the kids and their families cut out all foods with chemical flavourings, colourings and preservatives.
Bronwyn Pollnitz from the Food Intolerance Network introduced the toxin free food trial to the students and their parents.
"We encouraged them to read labels and look at the foods that they were eating, we gave them a list of all the numbers and the names of the flavours to avoid," says Bronwyn.
"They were really excited they loved the idea that they could be a little smarter than the manufacturers," says Bronwyn.
What happened next surprised and delighted everyone.
"It's only when you take out those additives and kids calm down and sleep better and get on well and can concentrate that you say wow that's what it is like to be normal and healthy," says Bronwyn.
The parents say the children are sleeping better and feel more energetic in the morning.
They're encouraged to do some cooking at home and provided with recipes and options for the supermarket.
Bronwyn says a constant diet of processed foods cause some nasty side effects in children.
"I asked them do some of you take a while to fall asleep at night and we were just astounded about three quarters of the hands went up I think with children's behaviour we start to think for kids to be a bit ratty in the classroom that's normal," says Bronwyn.
Teacher Liz Nicholls was on the front line of the experiment.
"I've also seen changes in things like even their handwriting style has improved during questioning times they are much more engaged with the questioning and more open to responding," says Liz.
And there's been a dramatic turnaround in classroom behaviour.
"I've had to step in less and less to sort out any sort of fraction between them because they are not being so impulsive," says Liz.
"The big thing particularly with the girls is that they're all just getting on better with each other they're not just annoying each other they're calmer and happier," adds Bronwyn.
It hasn't only been the kids who've benefited. Their families also adopted the transformative diet.
"I've heard lots of stories from other parents about their home dynamics being changed," says Deborah.
Cathy 5:14 so i've gone back to doing a lot more home baking and home cooking and a bit more effort into my dinnertime preparations
Mum Cathy Fischle took on additive free food with daughter Rebecca and son Thomas and she wasn't prepared for the changes within herself.
"Calmer, happier, I woke up feeling better at the end of the day, not so tired and lethargic at the end of the day I used to feel bluh and actually didn't realise that was just from what I was eating," says Cathy.
She didn't realise there had been so many chemicals in the food her family consumed day after day.
"We don't eat anything that bad. We eat plain basic ordinary food but when I looked at what we were eating and read the back of the packets of some of the things, I realised how much stuff has preservatives in it and additives and flavourings and I thought actually we do eat pretty bad," says Cathy.
Author Peter Taubert has spent years researching the ill effects on growing children.
"The effects of additives on children's bodies in particular in many cases can be worse than adults because their bodies haven't developed yet all of these have a dreadful effect on children's ability to learn or ability to sit still" says Peter.
"I think there was one family that only cut out flavoured snacks like shapes and that's all they had to do and that's made a big difference," says Bronwyn.
Teachers, parents and kids agree there's no going back...
"The ones that I've spoken with are keen to keep going and we will definitely keep going as well," says Deborah.
Cathy doesn't think that 2 weeks is really long enough.
"We've just started and we're just scratching the top of the iceberg and there's a lot more to come and that's why I want to keep going because I think we're on the right track," says Cathy.
SA Food Intolerance Network contacts:
Adelaide SA, Bron 08 8299 9208 firstname.lastname@example.org
Onkaparinga Hills, Adelaide SA, Jenny 08 8325 2664 email@example.com
Mount Gambier SA, Tracey 0417 823 826 firstname.lastname@example.org
Port Lincoln SA, Pam 08 8685 4441, 0437 212 702