Details of the Feingold Program

Last update 9/20/2005

The Feingold Program is based on an elimination diet composed of two stages: .

Stage One:

Stage One is the initial period during which the items listed below are avoided in order to obtain a favorable response:

Important: While the eliminated items are clearly listed here, you will not always find them clearly listed on product ingredient lists. Such ingredient lists are often incomplete and can be misleading.

The Feingold Association Product Information Center (PIC) maintains ongoing research to provide you with a continuously updated products list tailored to each region of the United States.

Without our Foodlist and Product Guide information, and in countries outside the United States, you will need to use single-ingredient items that have not been processed.


  1. Synthetic (artificial) colors

    • Food dyes may be listed as "food coloring," "U.S. Certified Color," "Color Added," or by its Food & Drug Administration number, such as "FD&C Yellow No. 5." In countries outside the U.S., additives are listed with an "E-" See this list here

    • These dyes used to be made from coal tar. They are now made from petroleum (gasoline is also made from petroleum).

    • Some products say "color added" but contain a chemical such as iron oxides which are not one of the colorings we eliminate. The only way you will know if such a product is acceptable is by using our Foodlist.

  2. Synthetic (artificial) flavors

    • May be listed as "flavoring" or "artificial flavoring." Vanillin is the only synthetic flavoring clearly labeled by its name.

    • Many of these thousands of flavoring chemicals are made from petroleum.

  3. Aspartame (Nutrasweet) - a synthetic sweetener

  4. Three synthetic antioxidant preservatives:

    • BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
    • BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
    • TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone)

    • These also are related to petroleum.

  5. Salicylate: a chemical found in some fruits, vegetables, and toiletries

  6. Aspirin & medications containing aspirin

  7. Other Items - Some people prefer to avoid other additives also at the start of the diet, adding them back later; others prefer not to, but just to keep them in mind to be eliminated later in case a response is not seen.

    Most of these items are marked in the Foodlist in parentheses. Some, such as fragrance, are simply not included in the Foodlist.

    See the list


Stage Two:

After you observe a favorable response to Stage One for at least 4 to 6 weeks, you may proceed to Stage Two.

During Stage Two, carefully re-introduce the salicylate items one at a time. Which to test first will be your choice, usually determined by which one is missed the most; remember this is not a challenge test. Do not test using a large amount, but rather you will use a small to moderate amount to see how much of which ones you or your child can tolerate without ill effects. Again, your Handbook and your Foodlist Book will guide you.

Ingredient lists on products cannot be relied upon to list all salicylate ingredients, or to indicate which ingredients are salicylates.

If you have eliminated other items such as corn syrup, from the list below, add them in the same way as the salicylates, one at a time, to discover which and how much can be safely tolerated.

The petroleum-based additives are never re-introduced.


How can the Feingold Association help you?

A worried mom once asked us "How many changes will I have to make in my cooking?" The answer was simple: all the changes are made in the grocery store. Once you are home, you cook however you like. In the store, you will simply choose brands that are on our Foodlist. There are more than 1,000 brand name items on the list, with more added each month. And yes, the list includes snacks, cakes, candy, even alcoholic beverages (for adults).

When you join the Feingold Association, you will receive membership materials to help make the Program easier. The materials include:

Back to Stage ONE || Back to Stage TWO ||


More Information on Salicylates

On Stage One, you avoid a list of foods containing the chemical "salicylate," which is like aspirin. This is a toxin made by the plant as a natural pesticide. Each person tolerates various salicylate-containing foods in different amounts, and after a few weeks successfully on the diet, you will be ready to start to find out which of these foods you can tolerate, how much, and how often. If, however, you already know, or you suspect after trying Stage One, that you are extremely sensitive to salicylate, you may need to eliminate more of them rather than add them back.

Back to Stage ONE || Back to Stage TWO


Troublesome Salicylates

While most plants do contain some salicylate compound, they do not all contain the same kind. Research has not been done on the relative toxicity of different kinds of salicylate, so the list of most troublesome fruits and vegetables has been determined clinically -- by trial and error -- over a period of many years.

Foods containing salicylate include certain fruits (such as raisins, grapes, and berries), a few vegetables (such as cucumbers and peppers), and various other foods and beverages. A list of the most troublesome salicylate-containing foods is available in the Program Handbook. The Handbook also provides a long list of acceptable fruits and vegetables that have been found to be well-tolerated.

If you or your family member are known or suspected to be extremely salicylate-sensitive, you will find a more complete listing of the low-salicylate items too, in the Special Needs Section of the Program materials.

Natural flavoring and natural coloring may contain salicylate, and it can be an unlabeled ingredient in everything from art supplies to vitamins. This could be a problem if you are trying to use the diet without the Program materials.

Back to Stage ONE || Back to Stage TWO ||


Other Items to Consider

Avoid anything -- food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, art supplies -- that has perfume or fragrance (synthetic fragrance may contain one of the prohibited chemicals, and natural fragrance may contain a salicylate. Use only unscented products at first)
Some people prefer not to avoid these at first, but only if a response is not seen. This is your choice. The additives are noted in the Foodlist for your convenience.


We are occasionally asked for a listing of foods containing phenol. Almost everything edible has some phenolic compound in it.

The things highest in problematic phenolic compounds are the petroleum-based additives - the artificial colorings, flavorings, and the three preservatives called BHT, BHA, TBHQ. These appear to be able to overload an enzyme called PST (phenol sulfotransferase) which is needed also in the brain because the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters are also phenolic. People with ADHD and autism have been shown in studies to be low in this enzyme.

It appears, furthermore, that for at least some people these additives act more directly on the brain, like a drug. They are low molecular weight chemicals and can pass through membranes. They have been shown to be 99% "bound" to blood proteins. This is how some psychoactive drugs also work. See explanation.

Eliminating these are the basis of the Feingold Program. Expecting to find "phenolic" listed on the label is a lesson in frustration -- this is why we research the food supply for our members and supply a Foodlist updated monthly.

Back to Stage ONE || Back to Stage TWO

See a little science on salicylate and the enzyme Phenol Sulfotransferase (PST)

Some of the recent studies indicate that salicylate has an effect on PST (Phenol SulfoTransferase), an enzyme needed by the brain and also needed at the gut to metabolize high-phenolic compounds like the artificial colors and flavors.

PST has been shown to be low for people with ADHD or autism. Salicylate suppresses PST even more, by up to 50%. See some of the research here. If your child has autism, you may not want to be in a hurry to add back the salicylates.

It is not yet known whether avoiding the salicylate-containing foods for a while causes the available amount of PST to rise. However, the response of many of our members -- able to tolerate some salicylate foods in small amounts and not too often, increasing tolerance with time -- makes that theory appear plausible.