Saturday, April 18, 2015

Colouring additives in the spotlight during Food Allergy Awareness Week

With national food allergy awareness week starting in Australia on May 17, consumers will have a growing focus on what additives are included in our food.

Eggs are often cited as a source of allergic reactions – but it may not be eggs which are the problem.

Colouring additives in poultry feed

All major egg producers and many small ones, even those which claim to be free range and organic

- use colouring additives in the feed they give their hens.

Their use is completely unnecessary in a free range flock, as hens running on quality pasture and at

low stocking densities will obtain enough carotenoids from the green feed in the paddock to

maintain good yolk colour. The colour will vary – depending on the time of year and what each hen

has been eating – but many egg producers want to con consumers by using additives to provide

consistent, bright yolk colour.

Many of those additives are synthetic-adding to the chemical cocktail mix in food. But even those

which are claimed to be 'natural' are manufactured in factories – often in China. What the

manufacturers mean by using the word 'natural' is that the additives may be derived from natural

products but are processed and concentrated into a powder or liquid.

Three of the most widely used egg yolk pigmenters are:

Canthaxanin or Canthaxanthin which appears to be an unsafe additive. It can cause diarrhoea,

nausea, stomach cramps, dry and itchy skin, hives, orange or red body secretions, and other side


Do not use canthaxanthin if you experience breathing problems; tightness in the chest; swelling of

the mouth, tongue or throat; a skin rash or hives; you are pregnant or breast-feeding or you are

allergic to vitamin A or carotenoids.


Allergic reactions to capsicum may occur. Stop eating eggs with capsicum-based colouring and seek

emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction including

difficulty breathing; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; or hives.

Other less serious side effects have also been reported. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health

care provider if you experience upset stomach; heartburn; diarrhoea; migraine attacks or burning

sensation in the mouth or throat.

Use of Capsicum is not recommended if you are pregnant. If you are or will be breast-feeding while

eating food containing Capsicum, check with your doctor or pharmacist to discuss the risks to your


Capsicum colourings can bring on anaphylactic shock. See details about which plants generate

these problems on this site at the University of Maryland:


Some people experience breathing problems, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, tongue

or throat. A skin rash or hives may occur.

From the Auckland Allergy Clinic

Article written: September 2001

Salicylate sensitivity is the body’s inability to handle more than a certain amount of salicylates

at any one time. A salicylate sensitive person may have difficulty tolerating certain fruits or


What are salicylates?

Salicylate is a natural chemical made by many plants. It is chemically related to aspirin, which

is a derivative of salicylic acid. It is believed the plant uses it as protection from insects, and

they are everywhere around us.

Although natural salicylates are found in wholesome foods, some individuals have difficulty

tolerating even small amounts of them. The reaction to a natural salicylate can be as severe as

that to a synthetic additive if the person is highly sensitive. Some people are troubled by only

a very few, but some are troubled by all of them.

What is salicylate sensitivity?

Some adults and children have a low level of tolerance to salicylates and may get symptoms

that are dose-related. The tolerated amount varies from one person to another. This is an

example of food intolerance.

What are some of the symptoms of Salicylate Intolerance?

Chronic Urticaria & Angioedema

Trigger for Eczema


Nasal Polyps


Rhino conjunctivitis

Stomach aches and upsets

Foods containing Salicylates

Salicylates occur naturally in many fruits, and vegetables as a preservative, to prevent rotting

and protect against harmful bacteria and fungi. They are stored in the bark, leaves, roots, and

seeds of plants. Salicylates are found naturally in many foods and its compounds are used in

many products.

All fresh meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, cereals, bread are naturally low in


Foods with very high Salicylate content include:


Capsicum Hot Peppers

Capsaicin is the active component of Capsicum. Pure capsaicin is a volatile, hydrophobic,

colourless, odourless, crystalline to waxy compound.

Capsaicin Factsheet

A UK report on The Adverse Effects of Food Additives on Health, published in the Journal of

Orthomolecular Medicine described surveys on food intolerance which showed that as many as 2 in

10 people believe that they react badly to certain foods or to their constituents, whereas less than 2

in every 100 has been considered to be the official figure.

However, a recently published report indicates that small children are much more likely to react to

certain foods. Although the exact numbers are not known, surveys suggest that one child in 10 may

be affected in some way

Of the nearly 4000 different additives currently in use, over 3640 are used purely for cosmetic

reasons and as colouring agents.

The continued reason for the use of additives is based on the argument that they are present in foods

on such a minute scale that they must be harmless.

This argument may be almost acceptable regarding additives with a reversible toxicological action.

However, with additives which have been found to be both mutagenic and carcinogenic, neither the

human nor animal body is able to detoxify. Therefore even very minute doses of these additives,

when consumed continuously, will eventually result in an irreversible toxic burden, resulting finally

in cancer formation and/or in chromosomal and foetal damage. This is unacceptable, particularly as

the majority of these dangerous agents belong to the food colouring group.

The full report is available here:

An allergy is a hypersensitity disorder of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when a

person's immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in the environment. A substance

that causes a reaction is called an allergen. These reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid.

Allergy is one of four forms of hypersensitivity and is formally called type 1 hypersensitivity.

Allergic reactions are distinctive because of excessive activation of certain white blood cells.

Mild allergies like hay fever are very common in humans but allergies can play a major role in

conditions such as asthma. In some people, severe allergies to environmental or dietary allergens

may result in life-threatening reactions called anaphylaxis.

From a Food Additive Guide






Capsanthin, found in paprika extract, is a red to orange coloured spice

derived from the pods and seeds of the red pepper (Capsicum annuum).

Contains vitamins A, B, C and traces of Zn, Cu, Se, Co, Mo, etc. Paprika

extract also contains capsanthin. Capsanthin may be added to poultry feed to

enhance egg yolk colour.

Typical products include eggs, meat products.

Not listed in Australia. Avoid it.

Friday, January 30, 2015

'Free Range' definition may become clear

The egg industry is looking forward to a decision by Ministers for Fair Trading which clearly defines 'free range' production. It was expected that the Ministers would meet in April - but there are some indications that the meeting may be delayed following lobbying by commecial interests.  Recent decisions by the Federal Court, as a result of action by the ACCC,  have established a basic principle defining free range egg production - that the hens must be allowed to range freely on most days. But the issue of labelling is about more than just animal welfare. The industry is keen to see a clear and formal definition based on the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of animals, Domestic Poultry and including land sustainability measures.

A review of the Code is long overdue. When the current version was approved by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council and printed in 2002, it was scheduled for review in 2010. It was a development of an earlier version of the Model Code. Now that a review is being undertaken, it is essential for the free range sector of the egg industry to ensure that plans are not successful for intensive production standards to be adopted in place of the extensive requirements of the current code.

There has no science behind the free range stocking density proposals put forward by corporate producers and some bureacrats and there has been no scientific review of production processes to demonstrate that the standards contained within the current Model Code are no longer applicable to the industry.

The stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare for free range hens was developed by applying well established principles of agronomy. The issue of the upper limit on the long term stocking rate was debated strongly at the time, following pressure from local Councils and the EPA about how some farms were operating.

The experience of people who had farmed free range layers in the 1950s and 60's, when egg production was based on free range hens often run under citrus trees, was that for an operation to be sustainable, the stocking rate had to be low - less than 300 birds/acre (750/hectare). It was agreed that system should be regarded as Free Range egg production and the hens were to have access to the range during daylight hours. There was some dispute by new entrants to the industry who believed that they could design pasture rotation systems around their sheds that would allow higher rates.

So it was decided to take an empirical approach and work out what the maximum stocking rate could be to avoid the measurable negative impacts of nutrient run off and soil degradation and still be theortically possible to maintain pasture cover and avoid the issue of dust.

Some argued that as most hens were in sheds at night and may be locked in for part of the day so that only a portion of the hens actually entered the range area, the impact is lessened.

The dairy industry was very big at that time and local agronomists had data on the effects of applying very high rates of poultry manure on irrigated pasture. The agronomists studied the data on the maximum nutrient uptake a well maintained irrigated pasture could support and also avoid the problems of salinity build up observed in the dairy pastures. The stocking rate was calculated and a stocking density of up to 600 birds/acre (1500/hectare) was regarded as the maximum possible for long term sustainability.

At the time the Code was approved, it was accepted that to maintain consumer credibility, visitors or passers-by had to see the birds out and about on the range. It was also accepted that there is no valid animal management need to lock in the layers in the morning or during inclement weather.

Those currently involved in free range egg production agree that the fundamental elements of the Model Code, or other regulations introduced by Governments must be:

  • a maximum stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare;
  • stocking density must be reduced in conditions where pasture or other vegetative cover cannot be maintained at the maximum stocking density;
  • no beak trimming of hens is permitted except when other methods of controlling outbreaks of severe feather pecking or cannibalism have been tried and failed (using the same criteria in the current Model Code); and
  • pullets must be allowed to range freely once they are fully feathered (about six weeks old).