Welcome to our special feature on the effects of new additive ribonucleotides (flavour enhancer 635, a mixture of 631 disodium guanylate and 627 disodium inosinate), which cause what we call–Ribo Rash. This set of additives seems to be very different from all other additives. As well as the usual effects of food additives (such as children’s behaviour problems, headaches, heart palpitations, irritable bowel symptoms) this group can cause an unbearably itchy rash or welts and/or possibly life-threatening swelling of the lips and tongue up to 48 hours after consumption. The rash can come and go and last for up to two weeks and can affect people who have never in their lives before suffered from itchy rashes. The delayed long-lasting reaction means that most people don’t realise the cause of their symptoms. Some consumers have suffered an unbearably itchy rash for years before identifying these additives as a problem. In some people and possibly–unborn babies, a reaction to 635 seems to have triggered severe multiple food intolerance.—-Flavour enhancer 635 (ribonucleotides) was approved in Australia in December 1994. This new additive is a combination of disodium guanylate (627, originally isolated from sardines, now made from yeasts) and disodium inosinate (631, originally isolated from the Bonito fish, now made from yeasts). As a group, these additives are known collectively as ribonucleotides, nucleotides or scientifically as ‘the 5 prime nucleotides’. In the USA, these additives are calledFood Flavor Enhancers Disodium Inosinate (DSI or IMP), Disodium Guanylate (DSG or GMP), and the combination of IMP and GMP (I&G). IMP, GMP and I&G are also known as nucleotides. Reactions can range from a single itchy rash to life-threatening swelling of the lips and tongue. If you eat these additives once a week or more, you may appear to have a chronic rash. You don’t need a history of rashes or food allergy. Anyone can be affected. Effects of MSG increased 10-15 times Scientists have recently found that the flavour enhancing effect of MSG is increased up to 10 to 15 times when MSG is used in combination with ribonucleotides. No added MSG (monosodium glutamate) is normally listed as flavour enhancer 621, but can also be listed as hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP), hydrolysed plant protein (HPP), ‘yeast extract’ or even ‘natural flavour’. Many products claiming no added MSG will contain ribonucleotides as well as a source of natural glutamates. Not for babies and young children–Ribonucleotides are not permitted in foods intended specifically for infants and young children, and people who must avoid purines for conditions such as gout are advised to avoid these additives.
Reactions to nucleotides can range from a single itchy rash to life-threatening swelling of the lips and tongue. If you eat these additives once a week or more, you may appear to have a chronic rash. You don’t need a history of rashes or food allergy. Anyone can be affected. Some people are affected by the more usual reactions to food additives – irritability, children’s behaviour problems, headaches, irritable bowel symptoms – but what makes these additives different is the number of rash reactions in people who are usually affected in other ways. Reactions to ribonucleotides are difficult to identify because they are not a true allergy. They can occur within minutes or can be delayed for hours or even days.
Most doctors, allergists and dermatologists appear to have no knowledge of the effects of these additives. Symptoms have been variously misdiagnosed as a virus (including chickenpox and pityriasis), psoriasis, shingles, chronic eczema, dermatitis, dandruff, allergy to soaps and detergents, food allergy “but it could be any one of a thousand foods, you’ll never work it out”, a “non-specific reaction which will eventually disappear”, hypersensitive vasculitis, allergy to sunlight (rash on face and neck), pregnancy, menopause, ’emotional’, foot-and-mouth disease (rash inside mouth), idiopathic anaphylaxis, and “it couldn’t be a food additive because the reaction wouldn’t last that long”.
- You are any age, either sex.
- You may have never noticed a reaction to food before.
- Your reaction may be:
3.1. itch without rash
3.2. mild to severe itchy rash (the itch may be unbearable and prevent sleep)
3.3. mild to severe swelling of the lips, throat and eyes (technically called angioedema) with or without rash. Swelling of the lips, throat and tongue can interfere with breathing – seek medical help.
3.4. loss of consciousness due to the above
3.5. other common food intolerance symptoms, such as irritability, children’s behaviour problems, difficulty falling asleep, headaches, irritable bowel symptoms including sudden diarrhoea, and alarming heart palpitations
- You have eaten foods containing 635, 627 or 631 minutes or up to 48 hours or more (can be the previous day or two) before the onset of the symptoms.
- You may have eaten these foods before safely but in smaller quantities or the food manufacturers may have just starting using these additives.
- The rash can last for a week or two or even longer. It may come and go and travel over the body during that time.
- If you eat products containing 635, 627 or 631 at least once week, you will appear to have a chronic condition which can last for years.
- Breastfed babies can be affected by this additive passing through breast milk. The rash may be misdiagnosed as infantile eczema.
- After you have suffered a 635 reaction, you may find you have developed a sensitivity to other food chemicals. You may need to do a full low-chemical elimination diet to find out which other food chemicals cause problems. Ask for our list of experienced dietitians and further information.
Look for 635, 627 and 631 in tasty processed foods such as:
- instant noodles, flavoured chips, CCs corn chips
- flavoured (eg BBQ, chicken) biscuits and rice crackers
- packet or canned soups or stocks and stock cubes
- pies, party pies, sausage rolls
- some instant mashed potato
- seasoning in the stuffing of supermarket fresh chickens
- flavouring salt added to hot chips or rotisseried chickens
- flavour added to frozen turkey
- pre-prepared or instant sauces, gravies and meals
- salad dressing, Greenseas salsa-flavoured tuna
- Devondale Light with Calcium
- pasta meals including macaroni cheese
- marinated meat from your butcher
- sausages from your supermarket or butcher
- some fast foods such as chicken, chips, batter for fish, Hungry Jack’s veggie burger
- check even fresh chicken labels closely as there have been some recent reports
- seafood extenders
In the USA, food flavor enhancers are most commonly used in dehydrated soups and gravies; canned meat, sausage and fish; soups and gravies; fish (preserved); sausage; prepared meals; tomato sauce and ketchup; mayonnaise; snack foods (mix in salt); soy sauce; crab, prawn and shellfish (preserved); Asian cuisine; prepared vegetables and a variety of other products.
REACTIONS ARE RELATED TO DOSE
You may be able to eat a certain quantity of these additives – eg a packet of flavoured chips every day – safely, but just a small amount more may cause a big reaction.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Avoid ribonucleotides, sodium guanylate or sodium inosinate (flavour enhancers 635, 627 or 631). Some people find they do better if they avoid all 600 numbers including MSG 621. You will have to:
* read labels
* ask about ingredients in fresh unlabelled foods such as sausages, sandwiches and prepared meats
* phone restaurants before you visit (ask to speak to the chef)
* talk to your child’s teachers and carers
* teach your child which foods to avoid at parties and when visiting friends
IF AFFECTED USE:
* Calamine lotion
* White antihistamine tablets like Claratyne. Telfast is OK too.
* If you are desperate, your doctor can prescribe cortisone cream. Some people need oral steroids or adrenaline.
* Tell us. We are keeping a register of reactions. We have been lobbying the national food authority (FSANZ) to investigate the effects of ribonucleotides for years.
* Tell others.
* Politely inform the food supplier or manufacturer of your reaction. They will probably deny it, tell you to consult your doctor (who almost certainly knows nothing about these reactions) and possibly be very rude, but the more complaints they get, the more they are likely to listen.
Reactions can occur up to 48 hours or more after eating this additive. One woman ate rotisseried chicken on Friday evening, started itching in bed on Saturday night and got up on Sunday morning to find she was covered in an unbearable itchy rash. She blamed the food last eaten (Saturday night’s meal) and phoned to enquire about preservative in wine. It was only when we went back through everything eaten in the last two days that we found the culprit.