Vol. 8, No. 2• May 2004

Help for Hard-to-Raise Kids . . . and Their Parents, Too

by Jane Hersey, Director of the Feingold Association of the US

  • Eight-month-old Justin is a fussy baby and still hasn’t slept through the night.

  • Severe asthmatic bouts bring three-year-old Tiffany to the emergency room.
  • Daniel, age five, has just been expelled from the latest day care center as a result of his aggressive behavior.

  • Maggie’s second grade teacher simply can’t “get through” to this distracted little girl and suspects she has ADD (attention deficit disorder).

  • Her older brother is on his third set of ear tubes because of chronic infections, and their mom suffers from hives.

As different as all these people are, they share something in common – a group of substances are triggering their various behavior, learning, and health problems.

The medical literature shows that many of the synthetic additives in food are powerful chemicals that can that trigger problems in sensitive people. Little Justin’s fussiness and sleep problems are linked to the additives in his baby vitamins. Tiffany’s asthma comes from the yellow dye in her favorite macaroni and cheese mix. Daniel is a calm, well behaved child when he doesn’t consume multicolored breakfast cereal, blue drinks, and so-called “fruit” snacks, but the pantry is generally well-stocked, so his good days are rare.

Maggie has the most problems after eating lunch in the school cafeteria, but the strong smelling markers designed for white boards also make it hard for her to pay attention. (They are also responsible for her teacher’s frequent headaches.) As for Maggie’s brother, his ear infections are being triggered by the artificial dyes and flavorings in his favorite candies while the biggest culprits for their mom are the synthetic preservatives hidden in her low-fat milk and the sweetener in her diet soda.

Synthetic food dyes are made from petroleum, as are three common preservatives: BHA, BHT and TBHQ. Artificial flavorings can be made from anything (literally, anything!) and a manufacturer need not disclose this information to anyone, including the Food and Drug Administration. Aspartame, the synthetic sweetener in Mom’s diet soda, is responsible for more reports of harmful effects than any other additive in history.

The good news is that consumers don’t have to eat this chemical stew, parents don’t have to be faced with out-of-control children, and all of us don’t need to be harmed by the very thing that is supposed to nourish us — our food.

The Feingold Association is a nonprofit organization with 28 years of experience teaching people how to find the food they love without the chemicals they hate. Named in honor of the doctor who helped so many hyperactive, learning disabled children (now called ADHD), most of the volunteers are parents who have found help for their children and themselves. To learn more visit <www.feingold.org>.

Jane Hersey is Director of the Feingold Association of the US and the author of Why Can’t My Child Behave? and Healthier Food for Busy People.

Copyright 2004 Jordan Institute for Families