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 follow a numbering scheme (INS, International Numbering System) defined by the Codex Alimentarius committee.  This committee is part of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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.

Number Classifications:

Range Purpose
100-199 Colours
200-299 Preservatives
300-399 Antioxidants and Acidity Regulators
400-499 Thickeners, Stablizers and Emulsifiers
500-599 pH Regulators and Anti-caking agents
600-699 Flavour Enhancers
700-799 Antibiotics
900-999 Miscellaneous
1100-1599 Additional Chemicals

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.

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4 Comments on “E Numbers

  1. As a vegan of decades, I already automatically avoid the undesirable foods. Most commercial foods are made with – not only bugs – but with a number of other undesirable substances and most harmful to health, to say nothing of the unethical side of it where humans AT ALL COST without hesitation will sacrifice any and all nonhumans for profits, entertainment, etc.

    This is only one of billions of depraved humans’ acts against both humans and nonhumans….

  2. We as a People have forgotten what food is… and also how to eat appropriately. Each is on their own. Trusting others, especially governments and corporations, regarding food is far worse than ludicrous. I aim to prepare from all organically grown basic food stuffs, one meal at the end of the day. Avoiding restaurants altogether; limiting the purchase of almost all prepared foods. Keeping it simple and stupid. Less is definitely more! As gleaned from my 40+ years of studying the most high, and most wise teachings across the board, from all walks of life. Be well!

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