Wildflowers for Jade: July 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Taking Annatto Seriously

I want to do a quick follow-up to my Annatto post last November, lest anyone think I've forgotten about it. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's on my mind almost daily. 

I was very slow to treat the issue like a serious allergy. I mean, it's food, and it's natural and it's in everything. My son has Autism, and it just didn't occur to me that a majority of his behaviors could be coming from something he was eating. I didn't realize (or obviously I would have done this years ago) that eliminating that one ingredient would be a life-changer for us. 

It is. 

Whenever I hear someone talking about how their child exhibits extreme irritability, head banging, screaming, irrational behaviors, huge meltdowns, I think "it could be annatto". I don't always say it. I don't want to annoy people by being repetitive. I'm not an evangelist. I'm not even some kind of expert. I'm only a mother who figured out something that still shocks me. 

But it can leave me breathless sometimes, the thought "how many children, how many adults even, are on behavioral drugs because of annatto? How many may have even been institutionalized because of violent behaviors possibly brought on by this unnecessary ingredient?" 

And I have to say, it's worth a shot. Isn't it? It's worth a two week elimination of something small to see if this is the issue for the person you love. Or yourself. If it changes nothing, you can move on without having lost anything. If it makes a difference, your child can have a different life. 

To do this though, you have to understand that it's really in almost everything that's processed. Treat it like a serious allergy and don't assume without seeing the ingredients. If you don't know, call and ask. Get on the internet and look it up. That's how I found that Duncan Donuts uses annatto in their donuts. That's how I found that Annie's Pretzels don't use it for their pretzels. Yes, I typed and scrolled on my phone to be sure before I said "yes" to a pretzel in the mall. Purity ice cream sandwiches - yes, they have annatto. So do Pepperidge Farms frozen cakes. Damn it. 

We did have some trial and error. I am able to detect an "oops" now by what happens in the days after, then had to go over in my mind what he had eaten. I've eliminated some brands (especially flavored chips) that did not have it listed in their ingredients, but fully assume that it's hidden somewhere because of his reaction. 

My son, who is only 6-going-on-7, already understands. He doesn't like the way it makes him feel either. Someone recently gave him a bite of something, but when he realized it had yellow cheddar in it he spit it out. 

It pains me to know that somewhere, a child is having another preventable annatto freak-out. Please share these posts, and if you've had the same experience, please leave a comment! Let's get the word out.