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Healthy foods keeping the kids happy -

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A school in Adelaide is seeing the benefits of promoting healthy food to its children.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: In recent years, schools around the nation have grown more focused on
promoting healthy childhood eating, and that's reflected in what's offered on tuckshop and canteen
menus.

That could soon go even further, with a push to rid schools of foods with artificial colours and
flavours.

Some people link them to emotional and physical complaints in kids and the proposal comes as the
Federal Government considers a review of food labelling across the board.

Is it evidence of the nanny state gone mad or something that would deliver tangible benefits?

Mike Sexton visits one Adelaide school that's finding the latter.

MIKE SEXTON, REPORTER: It's recess time at the Christian Community School in the Adelaide Hills
where the students are learning to read and right - reading what goes into the food they eat and
figuring out if it's right for them.

STUDENT: We used to eat lots of bad food.

STUDENT II: We've been having sea salt chips, we haven't been having, like, chicken chips.

STUDENT III: I'm not eating hot chips with chicken salt on anymore.

MIKE SEXTON: For just a fortnight, the kids and parents of two classes volunteered to change their
diet so they didn't eat or drink anything that contained additives such as artificial colours and
preservatives, and it had a dramatic effect.

STUDENT IV: Well I've been going to sleep better.

STUDENT V: I used to keep on having arguments with my friends about where we're going to go, what
we're gonna play. And I don't anymore.

STUDENT III: I used to be itchy on my arms and legs and now I'm not really itchy.

MIKE SEXTON: While the trial was limited, one of those determined to continue with it is Hannah
Lees, who kept a diary to note the changes to her health and behaviour.

HANNAH LEES, STUDENT: I sleep better and I do my maths better. I don't get angry with people
anymore. I am more likely to tell the truth.

MELISSA LEES, MOTHER: It did disturb me greatly to see her not in control of herself.

MIKE SEXTON: Melissa Lees admits it was daunting at first trying to ferret out what her daughter
could and couldn't eat, but once the changes were made, the response was remarkable.

MELISSA LEES: It took, I would say, several days, if I remember correctly, to get sort of her
system clean, but there was a definite significant change as a result of her being on the program,
one which I welcomed greatly.

MIKE SEXTON: The difference was also welcomed by Bonny Willsmore, who's seen her classroom of grade
threes and fours become significantly easier to handle.

BONNY WILLSMORE, TEACHER: There was an overall improvement to concentration in the class,
organisation in the morning - students were quicker to get organised.

SUE DENGATE, FOOD ADDITIVES ACTIVIST: Children are more vulnerable to the effects of additives
because the reaction is related to the size of the dose. Now, children eat and drink more
proportional to their body weight than adults do because they have a faster metabolism. So as they
get bigger and turn into adults, they are able to handle additives better.

MIKE SEXTON: Sue Dengate is an anti-additive evangelist. Her zeal comes from first-hand experience,
seeing her child transformed by dietary changes and the belief that no parent should have to suffer
the consequences of their children reacting to food additives.

SUE DENGATE: We are a voluntary organisation. We don't think that we should be the first line of
information for parents. So this is what's happening here: parents are just simply not informed
enough about adverse reactions to additives.

MIKE SEXTON: The debate over additives is at an interesting stage because in January this year a
review of food labelling was handed to the Federal Government with 61 recommendations, one of which
is, "... the industry develop in consultation with government, medical authorities and relevant
consumer organisations a voluntary code of practice and education initiatives to enable consumers
to quickly identify label information relating to additives, colourings and flavourings that are of
agreed medical priority for sensitive consumers." Those advocating for change believe it's unlikely
to have an effect.

SUE DENGATE: I would like to see, yes, more regulation, more information for consumers and more
warnings on labels, but I can tell you now that we've been lobbying for that for years and there's
no way that our food regulators want to do it.

MIKE SEXTON: Instead they point to Europe, where strident warnings are mandatory on products
containing six specific food colours.

BRONWYN POLLNITZ, FOOD INTOLERANCE ACTIVIST: They need to say, "May have an adverse effect on
children's attention and activity." And it's pretty crazy that we're still giving our children
things that are a problem that are known to be a problem.

MIKE SEXTON: However there is a debate over what is or isn't a problem. Food Standards Australia
takes the approach of its United States counterpart that there's no need for additional labels
because there's no conclusive evidence linking colours and hyperactivity in children. But Sue
Dengate questions the approach.

SUE DENGATE: I don't regard behaviour and attention problems as a criteria for safety, so,
additives are approved regardless of whether they affect children's behaviour and attention, and I
think this is wrong. I think this should be part of the criteria for testing food safety.

MIKE SEXTON: The minister responsible, Catherine King, declined to be interviewed for this story,
but her office says the Government will respond to the food labelling report by the end of the
year. In the meantime, five more schools in South Australia have begun trialling the no additive
diet.

BONNY WILLSMORE: We make the children aware, you know, what to look for on the back of packaging
and whether there's sugars and what additives and preservatives, then they're set up hopefully for
a better future as adults and usually it starts in schools.

STUDENT VI: I have forgotten the tastes of the not good foods, so I eat more good foods now.

LEIGH SALES: Mike Sexton reporting.