Mums tips on E number safety for tots
Here are a few E number safety suggestions from our experts and mums.
Print out the safety list
The Food Standard Agency publishes a list of all the manufacturers and retailers who avoid the Southampton Six in all their products.
Print it out and you can check whether products you're buying are on it. You'll find it at food.gov.uk in the 'Additives or E numbers' section.
Don't assume the 'free from' aisle is healthier
Obviously if you have a child with a dairy allergy or who needs a gluten-free diet for health reasons it's a godsend, but don't assume these foods are all super-healthy. 'I actually find that ingredients lists in the "free from" aisle contain more things I've never heard of – possibly to make up for whatever they've removed,' says mum Claire, who avoids additives because her son Ted, aged five, is epileptic. 'He has to take medication that's already fairly toxic – I don't want to overload his body any further.'
Involve your children in cooking
Not only does this help them now, it ensures that in the future they'll have the skills they need to pass on to their children. If we don't do this, says HiPP's Helen Gardiner, 'we're always going to have a society reliant on the type of foods more likely to contain additives.'
Relax about baby food
While it is better to make your own if you can, Helen explains that all baby foods are subject to regulations that ban most additives anyway. Organic baby foods are produced under even stricter rules.
Don't listen to the doubters
'You will get comments from people who think you're depriving your child by not letting them have that fizzy drink or packet of bright pink sweets, but hold your ground and know that you're doing what you think is best for your child,' says mum Jessica.
Watch out for these nasties...
Monosodium glutamate is used as a flavour enhancer. Some people claim to be sensitive to its effects, saying it causes problems including headaches, nausea, palpitations and dizziness. It's also been linked with an increased risk of obesity, possibly because it can increase appetite.
A shocking study by the University of Hertfordshire found that products aimed at children and considered 'healthy', including cereal bars and yogurts, contained more sugar (and fat and salt) than those aimed at the adult population. We're not saying you should become a mum of steel, but maybe steer clear of products specifically marketed for kids. Serve small portions of adult foods instead.
Used as a preservative in foods ranging from dried fruits to crisps, fizzy drinks and more, these can be associated with worsening of allergies and asthma and so should be avoided in children who already have these problems. Transfats aka hydrogenated fats, found in margarine and products using it such as cakes and biscuits. Most UK manufacturers have cut these out of their foods entirely, but you can still find them in some imported goods. They're linked to a strong increased risk of heart disease.
Good news here – the University of Hertfordshire study found salt levels were lower in kid's ready meals than in those for adults; but it's still a good idea to watch them. 'Continued high intake of salt can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease,' says Sara Patience. The UK's done a good job at reducing salt in processed foods, but more can still be done.