The Failsafe Diet Explained

An introduction to the failsafe diet for ADHD, with diet charts

About Food Intolerance

Non-Allergic Food Intolerance

The FAILSAFE diet is a diet designed to be free of additives, low in salicylates, amines and flavour enhancers. It is Sue Dengate's term for the low-chemical exclusion diet formulated by allergists at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia.

It is designed to treat sensitivities to specific man-made and natural flavourings, colourings and preservatives found in foods by eliminating problem foods and replacing them with healthy, low-chemical alternatives.

Beef, Potato, and Green Beans

Sensitivities to food chemicals are pharmacological and dose-related (like the side effects of drugs), rather than immune-mediated like allergies. Different people have different tolerance levels to salicylates, amines, glutamates, sulphites, food colourings and other additives, and sensitivity symptoms (intolerances), occur when a person's tolerance levels are exceeded.

The symptoms caused by food chemicals appear to be allergy-like, which can make determining their true cause very confusing. Despite food intolerance being more common than true allergy, a lack of knowledge about this syndrome means that the symptoms are rarely understood properly by the layperson or the medical practitioner. Food intolerances are not mysterious, however: there are specific, well-known metabolic reasons for these symptoms.

Food Chemicals Excluded by the Failsafe Diet


The failsafe diet excludes strong tasting and smelling foods and environmental chemicals, in particular:

  1. About fifty artificial food additives including colours (like tartrazine, sunset yellow), flavours, preservatives and antioxidants (sulphites, nitrates, benzoates, sorbates, parabens).
  2. Salicylates (aspirin) and polyphenols (natural flavours, colours and preservatives) found in a wide range of fruits and vegetables.
  3. Neurotransmitters in food: free glutamates (MSG) and amines (histamine, serotonin, dopamine, phenylethylamine, tyramine and others) found in aged proteins and fermented foods like cheese, chocolate, game, and hung meat.
  4. Aromatic (strong smelling and tasting) chemicals found in perfumes, cleaning products, commercial cosmetics, and scented and coloured toiletries, especially mint and menthol products.
  5. Some pharmaceutical drugs, including aspirin, NSAIDS and other COX II inhibitors including ibuprofen, and the methyl-salicylates found in decongestants and anti-inflammatory creams.