It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.
- George W. Bush
What is an E Number?
If you live in North America, you may not know about E numbers. An E number is a number code used to categorize and identify food additives that have been approved for use within the European Union.
E numbers are actually a subset of the additives defined by Codex Alimentarius. The approval of additives for use in Europe is the responsibility of European Food Safety Authority.
What is a Food Additive?
A food additive has been defined as a substance that is not normally consumed as a food by itself and is not normally used as a typical ingredient of the food.
That’s a pretty broad definition and includes a lot of things. The numbering scheme categorizes food additives so we can often tell from the E number on the label why a particular additive was used. Unfortunately, the classifications are pretty vague, and sometimes, a substance may serve many different purposes.
|300-399||Antioxidants and Acidity Regulators|
|400-499||Thickeners, Stablizers and Emulsifiers|
|500-599||pH Regulators and Anti-caking agents|
Should We Avoid Eating Substances that have E numbers?
Well, it is hard to completely avoid eating foods that have E numbers listed in the ingredients. Many natural ingredients (natural colours like chlorophyll, E 140) and everyday foods (baking powder, E 500) have E numbers.
The best idea, whenever possible, is to avoid eating artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, or other additives. The best way to do this is to buy fresh ingredients. Foods that are processed are more likely to contain more E numbers.
When shopping for food, look at the ingredient list. Items may be listed using either a common name (baking soda), a chemical name (sodium carbonate), or an E number (E 500). If you don’t know what an ingredient is, look it up or avoid buying that product. A complete list of food additives with their associated E numbers can be found here.
How Do You Feel About Food Additives?
Do you worry about eating foods with E numbers? Do you try to avoid artificial food additives? Do you have any shopping or cooking tips to avoid artificial ingredients?
Please leave a comment and let us know.