Sue Dengate is the founder of the Food Intolerance Network. She says many people choose products containing all natural ingredients believing them to be a better option but there are some natural colours, flavours and ingredients that can cause as many problems as artificial colours and flavours and in fact we need to be just as wary of some natural additives as we do artificial.
"Consumers think that all natural means it's safe, it not right," says Sue.
Emma Lyndon noticed dramatic changes in her three boys after they ate certain foods.
"Tom my eldest who's nine, he used to have a lot of trouble sleeping, settling at night, he said his mind wouldn't stop moving. I had my younger son, Jack, who was developing a rash around his face," says Emma.
While creams and medications treated the symptoms she couldn't get to the crux of the problem.
"They can have lollies like Allen's snakes for example and have little reaction if none at all, but if they have the products with the natural colours and flavours in them, they are the ones that we have troubles with in our family It wasn't until I went to Sue Dengate's talks and there was a light bulb moment as I watched as she was describing certain symptoms. By eliminating the products with natural colours and additives in our diet we've had no further problems," says Emma.
According to Sue Dengate natural colour 120, which is added to many popular kids snack foods, is one of the biggest instigators.
"120 is a natural colour that because it's made from crushed beetles, and therefore can have protein in it, can cause true food allergies," says Sue.
160b or annatto is another natural colour to avoid.
"160b in my opinion is one of the worst additives on the market because it can cause food intolerance reactions and it can cause true allergies because it is made from a seed coat and the contamination from the seed can cause the allergies," explains Sue.
It's found in a variety of foods including yoghurts, ice-cream, lollies and soups and can cause some serious side effects.
"Irritability, restlessness, inattention, sleep disturbance, but you've also got physical problems, such as stomach aches, headaches, asthma and itchy skin rashes," says Sue.
Esme Barratt has also eliminated additives from her family's food..
"I'm convinced that the additives, in fact removing them from the diet, changed our kids' behaviour completely," says Esme.
"Daniel he used to get depressed and things would upset him. We've been told to steer clear of foods riddled with artificial colours and flavours. We mainly just avoid numbers, that's the big thing we look for, any preservatives, flavourings," says Esme.
Frances Costanzo has a severe anaphylactic reaction to any products that contain msg or flavour enhancers.
"What happens is my throat swells up, I start coughing, I can't breathe properly," says Frances.
And so after a number of serious attacks she made a point of picking products that contained only natural ingredients.
"It said all natural, no msg and no flavour enhancers and because it says no msg and no flavour enhancers I bought it," says Frances.
But that was no guarantee, after eating an artificial free vegetable stock she almost died.
"As I was sitting down I started coughing, I took some ventolin, it didn't help, the coughing got worse and then my throat felt tight, I was starting to get dizzy it nearly killed me," explains Frances.
The ingredient in the product she reacted to was hydrolysed vegetable protein. While it is a natural ingredient it is just as potent as msg and in fact yeast extract, hydrolysed vegetable protein and msg are chemically identical, so while it appears to be healthier, natural doesn't necessarily mean identical to nature.
Food scientist Howard Dengate says consumers are being fooled by manufacturers who are replacing msg and other nasties with these natural alternatives.
"This chicken instant noodle says no added MSG and you turn it over and look at the ingredients panel it has flavour enhancer 620 which is glutamic acid, as soon as it arrives in the food its MSG, it's the same stuff hydrolysed vegetable protein and yeast extract, they are boiled up with hydrochloric acid (and) neutralized with caustic soda," explains Howard.
For more information on natural and artificial additives to avoid and to learn more about food intolerances head to The Food Intolerance Network website.