Feingold / Failsafe Programs
last updated 8.25.05
In 1973, an allergist named Dr. Benjamin Feingold observed that some childhood behavior problems seemed linked to excessive food colorings, salicylates, and additives. The program named for him restricts intake of these substances. There are numerous reports in the literature which support its value in managing various symptoms and biological issues.
The Feingold program eliminates:
- fruits and vegetables which are high in salicylates
- certain artificial preservatives (BHA, BHT, and TBHQ)
- synthetic (artificial) coloring
- synthetic (artificial) flavorings
- aspartame (added 2004)
The program also identifies additives in non-food sources such as aspirin, toothpaste, medicines, and gums. Some of the salicylate foods are:
• Almonds • Apples • Apricots • Aspirin • Berries (all) • Cherries • Cloves • Coffee • Cucumbers • Currants • Grapes/raisins • Nectarines • Oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylates) • Oranges • Peaches • Peppers (bell, chili) • Pickles • Plums • Prunes • Raisins • Rose hips • Tangerines • Tangelos • Tea • Tomatoes • Vinegar (cider, wine) • Wine
Some of the salicylate aspirin products are given here:
Aspirin containing products
Lists of salicylate content in foods and products
The Feingold Program is based upon eliminating the selected ingredients in two stages. After a person has been successfully on Stage One for four to six weeks, the food containing natural salicylates are added back in carefully to watch for reaction. If there is no reaction, then the person is considered Stage Two, which only eliminates the chemical additives and preservatives. In general, children under six years of age respond within one week of following the diet; children over six may take two to six weeks of following the diet to achieve positive results. This program has benefited many children and adults.
Although Stage One is more restrictive than Stage Two, this is not a calorie- restricted diet, and following this diet is simply a matter of substituting foods with natural ingredients for the foods with artificial ones. This is a natural, risk-free alternative to control hyperactivity, ADD, physical ailments, and other reactive behaviors to these additives.
The program also identifies additional sources of additives which some people may find helpful to eliminate as well. This include:
- calcium proprionate
The main site for information is at: www.feingold.org
Note: click on the Research section at the Feingold site to access a large collection of research and food and chemical relationships
Discussion group to learn more about Feingold Program: An on-line support group for families who are implementing the Feingold Program (r) instead of medication to treat their children's ADD/ADHD and other emotional, behavorial, and physiological special needs. Also for those seeking information about the Feingold Program. This group is not sponsored by or in any way affiliated with the Feingold Association.
Note: you can join this listserv by sending a blank e-mail message to
Good Reading: Why Can't My Child Behave? By Jane Hersey,
Introduction by Jay Freed, M.D.
School Food and Lunches (improving nutrition at school)
Enzymes and Feingold
It may be that part of the problem with dairy, wheat, or other foods with many people is simply that they are buying dairy, wheat or other products with the added chemicals in it. For example, I read where someone's child reacted badly to milk. When the mom switched to a Feingold approved brand without the chemical additives, the child no longer had a problem. Same would apply with other products...the child is reacting to the chemicals in the foods and not the actual food itself.
It is common to see over and over and over that people doing a restrictive diet such as the casein-free, gluten-free one often find they eventually need to eliminate the Feingold targeted foods as well. I suspect that many see improvement on such diets in the beginning simply because they end up eliminating many of the chemical laden and processed foods, and not because the core problem was strictly gluten or casein. So if you do Feingold first, you may not need to eliminate other entire food groups as well.
see Dairy - the Multi-faceted Substance
Enzymes are not officially endorsed or recommended by as part of the official Feingold program. Enzymes would be more appropriately used in addition to the Feingold program to help with other foods (soy, corn, dairy, fruits, etc) and overall digestion and intestinal health. They may be very helpful it going from Stage 1 to Stage 2.
While enzymes can be extremely beneficial there is also a little you should know before taking that route so you are prepared. We have found out in the enzyme group that if you are sensitive to salicylates, you may have a problem tolerating any product with:
- papain (from papaya)
- bromelain (pineapple) or
- actinidin (kiwi)
- ficin (fig)
There are some enzyme products without these, but you need to really look for them. There is a version of Peptizyde for dairy, grains, and meats without any of these 'fruity' enzymes, called AFP Peptizyde.
No-Fenol by Houston Nutraceuticals specifically targets phenolic and salicylate foods helping the body to process them appropriately. Many people who have difficulty with fruits and vegetables do quite well with this, starting a little at a time. It would be most appropriate if someone wanted to go from Stage 1 to Stage 2...or there is a contamination issue...or you are in a place you cannot guarantee the program will be followed exactly (such as grandma's house, or a restaurant). At this time enzymes would not be a substitute for the entire Feingold Program, although they may help you expand your food choices. I say this by drawing on extensive experiences of others. Digestive enzymes have not proven to be consistently effective on artificial stuff. Some people may find they are helpful with some additives but the success is very individual and may be limited. So it is best to consider only actual foods when deciding - enzymes such as No-Fenol may help with naturally occurring compounds, such as phenols or benzoates, but not artificial added phenolic substances or benzoates.
For more information, contact:
Feingold Association of the United States
P.O. Box 6550
Alexandria, Virginia 22306
The Failsafe Program eliminates many chemical additives from the diet as well as some natural sources of these compounds.
Dealing with Chemical Sensitivities
People with many chemical sensitivities may do well with epsom salts, magnesium, and avoiding chemicals when possible to reduce the total load on the system.
see Epsom Salts
see The No-Fenol File
Note on Synthetic Vitamins
Natural vs Synthetic
Here is one good discussion on synthetic vitamins versus natural sources. Apparently some vitamins are made from coal-tar, particularly the B vitamins. Coal-tar is the same source that many artificial colorings and flavorings are derived from. This may contribute to why people with phenol intolerances report doing very poorly on high B vitamins, or having trouble tolerating many common supplements. Just looking at 'natural' vitamins can be misleading as well. For example, coal-tar is an all natural source so a company could make vitamins from it and call it 'natural' although this would not be the same as getting it from a food source. Whole food sources seem to be the best bet if that is possible, natural sources next (and hope the natural source is tolerated or from a real food), and synthetic next.
This may also help explain why kids leaving tons of supplements and very restrictive diets do better on enzymes and whole foods. The article explains how relying on synthetic vitamins, or isolated vitamins can create other nutritional deficiencies over time as well.