Feingold Food Programme


In the1970’s Dr Ben Feingold, a Paediatric Allergist at the Kaiser Pemanente clinic in the US, devised the Feingold Food programme following Dr Stephen Lockey’s work. It is designed to eliminate some synthetic chemical additives and some foods containing natural salicylates. Feingold found that 50% of hyperactive children reacted to food additives. In 1973, at a meeting of the American Medical Association, he explained that excluding chemical food additives, e.g. food colourings, flavourings and preservatives from the diet of hyperactive children not only improved their health but also their hyperactive behaviour.

The programme

The dietary plan aims at encouraging families to cook fresh products by eliminating food packaged in boxes, cans or bottles as they are likely to contain additives and preservatives. It is based on two stages.

Stage one consists of eliminating the following:

1. Synthetic colours (or food dyes): they are usually listed under "E-numbers".

2. Artificial flavours: they are petroleum based additives: for instance vanillin or MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) which is found in two forms: naturally in food and as an added flavour enhancer, MSG is used in many processed foods such as stock cubes, soya products, crisps and Chinese food.

3. Anti oxidants and preservatives: BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone) which are petroleum based preservatives.

4. Salicylates: these natural chemicals found in fruits, vegetables, plants and nuts act as preservatives and insecticides. High levels of salicylates are found in almonds, apples, apricots, berries, cherries, chilli powder, cloves, coffee, cucumbers, currants, grapes and raisins, nectarines, oranges, paprika, peaches, peppers, plums, prunes, tangerines, tea, tomatoes, wine, oil of wintergreen (list from the Feingold Association of the United States). Salicylates are also found in aspirin.

5. Aspartame: an artificial sweetener found in sugar substitutes. While the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the manufacture of food, drugs and cosmetics in America, states that aspartame is safe, several consumer associations claim that it can cause illnesses including cancer.

6. Nitrites and nitrates: common additives used in processed meat, fish and cheese.

7. Benzoates: they are flavourings and preservatives found in margarine, dry soup, salad dressings, condiments, sauces, soft drinks and some liquid medicine.

8. Sulfating agents: they are found in corn syrup and are generally used in dried fruits and to keep food white.

After a period of 4 to 6 weeks, individuals whose condition has improved can start stage two, which consists of reintroducing the salicylates one at a time

The programme is drastic but it is important to follow the first stage carefully as even a minor intake of salicylates will compromise any chance of success. Generally cosmetics, toiletries, toothpaste, perfumes and medication contain additives and salicylates. It is not always easy to look for these products on the ingredient lists as they are sometimes well hidden. Not all E-numbers are dangerous, to obtain a full list of these products contact the Feingold Association (see address in the Resources section).

In the UK the Hyperactive Children's Support Group (HACSG) has adapted the Feingold programme, it recommends that other vegetables and fruits should also be taken out the diet: avocados, aubergines, bananas, carob, carrots, grapefruits, lemons, limes, melons, olives, peppers, pineapples, pomegranates, potatoes, pumpkins and squash. Sugar should also be avoided as much as possible.

It seems that hyperactive children and those with autistic tendencies are very sensitive to additives and preservatives and are unable to handle more than a certain level.
The connection between additives and autism or ADHD is still not clear, one hypothesis is that salicylates block the formation of substances called prostaglandins, which play an important role in the immune system and in behaviour.
In 1998 Rosemary Waring from the School of Biochemistry at the University of Birmingham showed that Salicylates can suppress the production of phenol sulfur-transferase (1)(PST) . PST is an essential enzyme that breaks down and gets rid of toxins in the body such as products of foods, phenols, residues of medications, hormones and chemicals that are no longer needed. In another study she noted that a majority of autistic children have sulphate levels below normal levels (2). A deficiency in PST and sulphates can have several consequences:

- On the gut permeability: it seems that a deficiency of sulphates could make the walls of the intestines permeable (“leaky gut”), which means that harmful toxins that didn’t get fully metabolised can then be carried from the intestine to the brain through the bloodstream and thus affect the central nervous system.

- on neurotransmitters: enzymes get rid of neurotransmitters that are no longer needed (neurotransmitters are chemical substances released from the nerve fibre that affect the transfer of an impulse to another nerve or muscle), the lack of PST may create a build up of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and noradrelanine which can affect the behaviour.

- on the immune system: If sulphate and PST levels are low, the process of detoxification in the body cannot take place properly, this could suppress the immune system.

(1) 1 Harris RM, Hawker RJ, Langman MJ, Singh S, Waring RH. Gut 1998 Feb;42(2):272-5
(2) 2 Alberti A, Pirrone P, Elia M, Waring RH, Romano C, Biological Psychiatry 1999 Aug 1;46(3):420-4


The diet has been criticised as it does not work for all children. Recent studies conducted by Stare, Simon and Wolraich tend to prove that there is a connection between additives and hyperactivity, whereas findings by Egger, Carter, Conners, Boris, Rowe, Berdonces, Kidd, Swain and Zeisel refuted this hypothesis. The Feingold Association states that most studies conducted were carried on few dyes only with low dosage levels.(26mg per day) while the FDA says that the average consumption per child/day is 76mg for children 6-12 years old.

In 1997, a questionnaire established by the HACSG among 357 families with hyperactive children revealed that 89% reacted to synthetic colours, 72% to synthetic flavours, 72% to preservatives, 50% to antioxidants, 60% to MSG, 60% to chocolate and 48% to orange.

The Feingold Association, the HACSG and AIA have a list of studies on their website. Abstracts can also be viewed on the internet at the Pubmed's website:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?CMD=&DB=PubMed, and a review of most studies can be downloaded from the Center for Science in the Public Interest at:

Conditions that may respond to the Feingold Food Programme

Ear aches
Skin problems
Sleep disorders
Stomach aches



The Feingold Association of the United States
127 E. Main Street
Suite 106
Riverhead NY 11901
Tel: (001) 631 369 9340

Hyperactive Children's Support Group (HACSG)
71 Whyke Lane
West Sussex PO19 2LD
Send a SAE for information

The HACSG has a four-page questionnaire covering birth, medical history, symptoms, food intake etc. Full details of the Feingold Food Programme can be obtained from the HACSG, a 32-page booklet: Hyperactive Children - A Guide to their Management.

Allergy Induced Autism (AIA)
11 Larklands
Peterborough PE3 6LL


These are some of the references that have been passed to us; the list is not exhaustive. We have not necessarily read the books, and cannot say how easy it will be to get them.

- Feingold B. Why your child is hyperactive (1974) ISBN: 0394734262
- Farlow C.H. Food additives. A shopper’s Guide to What’s Safe & What’s Not (2000) ISBN: 0963563548
- Steinman D.A Consumer’s Guide to Nontoxic Products, Cosmetics and Food. ISBN: 0020820852
- Sarjeant D., Evans K. Hard to Swallow: The Truth about Food Additives. ISBN: 0920470475
- Taylor J. Helping Your Hyperactive/Add Child. ISBN: 0761508686
- Conners K. Food Additives and Hyperactive Children. ISBN: 0306404001

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