Food allergy is discussed elsewhere (see 00122 and 00123). It is a frequent diagnosis in childhood. Diarrhea, rashes, and wheezing are common symptoms caused by infection probably more commonly than by food allergy. Parental desire to explain a child's frequent illness may lead to food being wrongly blamed for recurrent symptoms. Vague associations between food and the development of symptoms can result in many foods being unnecessarily excluded and children reduced to diets of very limited variety. For example, whilst 14% of children may be described as allergic to some food, as few as 5% may have had this diagnosis confirmed by their medical practitioners.

Much publicity has surrounded the idea that 'fast foods' and carbonated drinks influence behavior. Even so, there is very little hard scientific evidence to support the widely held view that food additives are harmful to children's behavior. A few studies have shown a minority of children where food does seem to be directly associated with behavioral change, particularly when tartrazine is considered. However, the organization and discipline necessary to eliminate certain foods from young children's diets may be as influential in improving behavior as removal of a food from the diet. The area remains a confused one but there seems little justification for the use of most food colorants, textur-izers, and even preservatives, irrespective of their effects on behavior.

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