Food With E Numbers is a guide which includes all of the food that contains E Numbers . It includes the various food that have high amounts of nitrites or nitrates, artificial colourings and chemical preservatives and even chocolate.
Food With E Numbers
The “E numbers” in the ingredients list of your packaged foods replace the chemical or common name of particular food additives. These are used to enhance the colour, flavour, texture or prevent food from spoiling.
Food additives have been used for centuries. The ancient Romans would use spices such as saffron to give foods a rich yellow colour. Salt and vinegar were used to preserve meats and vegetables for long voyages.
In the 1960s, regulators decided to make a standardised list of these additives. In Europe, these are referred to as E numbers (the E stands for Europe). In Australia, we just use their code number.
So, vitamin C would be called E300 in Europe. In Australia, it can be found on labels with the code number 300, such as “food acid 300”, “ascorbic acid (300)” or “vitamin C (300)”.
What do the numbers mean?
100 to 199: Food colouring. Saffron is “food colour 164” in Australia (or E164 in Europe). Other spices commonly used to add colour to foods include turmeric (E100) and paprika (E160c).
200 to 299: Preservatives. These prevent the growth of microbes in food that might make us sick. E220, for example, is sulphur dioxide, a preservative commonly used in wine to stop acetic acid bacteria from turning the wine into vinegar.
300 to 399: Antioxidants. Vitamin C (E300) falls into this category.
400 to 499: Thickeners, emulsifiers and stabilisers. Thickeners are commonly used in soups or sauces. Emulsifiers help keep oily substances and watery substances mixed, such as mayonnaise. Without emulsifiers, the oily and watery part can separate, as seen with vinaigrettes.
500 to 599: Acidity regulators and anti-caking agents. Sodium bicarbonate (E500), commonly known as baking soda or bicarb soda, regulates acidity.
600 to 699: Flavour enhancers, including monosodium glutamate (E621) or MSG.
700 to 999: Sweeteners, foaming agents and the gases used to package foods, such as nitrogen gas (E941). This is used in most potato chip packaging, as it stops them from oxidising.
Many E numbers are naturally occurring substances, such as vitamin B1 (E101) and even oxygen (E948).
Regulation of E numbers
E number restrictions vary between countries, depending on how the local regulatory authorities interpret the product’s toxicity results. Toxicity is the ability for a substance to cause damage, which is often related to how much of the substance is eaten.
Everything is toxic in a high enough dose. Even caffeine is toxic if you have enough of it. But most people don’t consume anywhere near a toxic dose, which would be more than 100 cups of coffee.
Some E number additives are banned elsewhere in the world but not in Australia. Let’s look at what the science says about the key culprits.
Amaranth (E123) is used to give a dark-red colour to foods. It is permitted for use in foods at concentrations of up to 30mg/kg in Australia and the European Union but is banned in the United States due to concerns it causes cancer.
In 1971, a Russian study linked the dye to cancer in rats. There was considerable criticism of the methodology of the study and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) undertook several subsequent studies.
The FDA found little evidence amaranth was harmful. In one study, female rats given high doses did have an increase in malignant tumours. However, the dose was so high a human would have to drink 7,500 cans of soft drink a day to reach it.
However, following significant public outcry, in 1976 the FDA banned this food colouring.
Food manufacturers in the United States could apply to have it retested, but that’s an expensive process. E123 has been replaced by another red colouring agent, E129, one of the “Southampton six”.
The ‘Southampton six’
In 2007, a UK study found a link between mixtures of food colouring and increased hyperactivity in children. Two colouring mixtures were used: Mix A (containing E102, E110, E122 and E124) and Mix B (containing E104, E110, E122, E129).
The study measured hyperactivity by parent-teacher questionnaires, computer tests and having psychology students directly observe children in a classroom.
Both mixes appeared to be associated with hyperactivity in children aged eight to nine years, but only Mix A was linked to hyperactivity in three-year-olds.
Following public outrage, a “voluntary ban” was implemented in 2009. This means the colours can be added to foods in the United Kingdom and European Union, but they must carry a warning that they “may have adverse effect on activity and attention in children”.
While food manufacturers can continue to use them, the bad publicity following their continued use prompted many to find alternatives.
No warnings are required for these additives in Australia, following investigation by the food regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
FSANZ reviewed tartrazine (E102) – one of the Southampton six – in 2014 and confirmed it was non-toxic and safe for consumption. FSANZ did admit uncertainty, though, about its effects on hypersensitivity.
In the US and EU, products containing tartrazine must carry a warning that they may cause allergic-type reactions in susceptible people.
One study found that tartrazine led to an allergic reaction in about a quarter of people with allergies.
A more recent review found that avoiding tartrazine can help control asthma – but only for people who are sensitive to it.
It has been suggested tartrazine might contribute to hyperactivity, but only in those children who are sensitive to it.
There is also some evidence to suggest that certain children with ADHD may be genetically sensitive to food colours. Consuming excessive food colours may therefore make their symptoms worse.
Food E Numbers
The ‘E’ on E numbers on a food label stands for ‘Europe’. Food E Numbers are a set of codes for substances used as food additives. Commonly found on food labels, their safety assessment and approval are the responsibility of Regulatory Authorities
Having a single unified list for food additives was first agreed upon in 1962 with food colouring. In 1964, the directives for preservatives were added, in 1970 antioxidants were added, in 1974 emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners, and gelling agents were added as well.
- E100–E199: Colours
- E200–E299: Preservatives
- E300–E399 (antioxidants, acidity regulators)
- E400–E499 (thickeners, stabilisers, emulsifiers)
- E500–E599 (acidity regulators, anti-caking agents)
- E600–E699 (flavour enhancer)
- E700–E799 (antibiotics)
- E900–E999 (glazing agents, gases and sweeteners)
- E1000–E1599 (additional additives)
Food additives and E numbers
Understanding food labeling
‘E numbers’ are codes for natural and artificial food additives that appear in food labeling. The coding was set up and is used by the European Union. The ‘E’ stands for Europe and appear on food labelling that is assessed and approved by the European Food Safety Authority. The E code that appears on your label has been approved and is safe to be consumed by this body. According to the EU all food additives must be clearly labelled on the list of ingredients as an E code or by name. The common or colloquial understanding of ‘E’ number is seen as a negative term when describing food additives contained on some food labels. However, the ‘E’ code can stand for natural additives such as vitamins e.g vitamin C is E300.
What are Food Additives?
Food additives are ingredients that are added to food for reasons such as: to make them last longer, give them colour or to sweeten them. Here is a list of the most common food additives you will see on labels:
- Antioxidants: Oxidation reactions happen when foods are exposed to air causing them to turn brown or go rancid. Antioxidants slow the rate of oxidation extending the shelf life of food. Example: Mayonnaise, soups or sauces. Eg. Citric acid(E330) is used in tins, cheeses to stop them going rancid.
- Colours: By adding colour to food you make it more appealing to the consumer. Food colouring can be natural in origin such as Curcumin ( E100) which is made from turmeric and is used in curry, fats and oils or processed cheese. And controversial artificial colouring such as Tartazine (E102) which is a synthetic dye which sometimes appears in ready meals.
- Emulsifiers/Stabilisers: Foods that are a mix of oil and water will separate without and emulsifier e.g mayonnaise. They keep mixtures of foods ‘stable’ giving it texture and structure and help prevent food turning rancid. Pectin (E440) is very a common gelling agent used in jam.
- Flavour Enhancers: Flavours are added to food to enhance the taste and are often imitation of the flavour of the food. Foods like ice cream, meat substitutes, natural yogurt would often be tasteless and unappealing without flavouring. There are natural flavours made from animal and vegetable sources and chemically made flavours such as monosodium glutamate (E621) which is used in processed food.
- Preservatives: Preservatives keep food safe for longer and stop fungus and bacteria growing that will spoil food. There are traditional ways of preserving food such as smoking fish and meats, and factory methods such as freezing, canning, pickling and drying that remove the factors that would allow mould or bacteria to grow. Chemical preservatives like potassium and sodium nitrate (E249 and E250) are synthetic additives used for many foods including meats that make them last longer.
- Sweeteners: Sugar is one of the most important flavouring substance and has been around since people began eating honey from 2000 BC! However sugar is controversial as it causes all sorts of health problems. Therefore alternatives to sugar like artificial sweeteners were developed to reduce the amount of sugar needed in food product but still provide sweet taste like Aspartame (E 951) used in slimming soda drinks like Diet Coke.
Good versus Bad E numbers
There have been lots of controversy over the usage of food additives that have been linked to all sorts of health and behavioural problems however are still deemed safe by EU legislation, making it confusing for the consumer. One of the big stories around monosodium glutamate led to clinical trials to investigate whether it was deemed dangerous yet researchers could not find any link to disease or side effects. However, regardless of trials and assurance of safety from food bodies it is generally accepted that a lot chemically made food additives are deemed ‘unhealthy’ by the public opinion.
Although not strictly termed ‘good’ some E numbers are better than others and are derived from natural sources.
A great way to identify which E numbers are what is by educating yourself and your family on food labeling and by using apps that help you discover quickly what is in your food before you buy.
E-numbers (risk foods)
|ID’s||KEY DESCRIPTIVE LABELS||NARRATIVE DESCRIPTION|
|100||Curcumin||Natural food color|
|101||Lactoflavin||Natural food color|
|101a||Riboflavin-5-phosphate||Natural food color|
|102||Tartrazine||Synthetic food color|
|104||Quinoline Yellow||Synthetic food color|
|110||Sunset Yellow FCF, Orange Yellow S||Synthetic food color|
|120||Cochineal, Carminic acid, Carmines||Natural food color|
|122||Carmoisine, Azorubine||Synthetic food color|
|123||Amaranth||Synthetic food color|
|124||Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A, Brilliant Scarlet 4R||Synthetic food color|
|127||Erythrosine||Synthetic food color|
|131||Patent Blue V||Synthetic food color|
|132||Indigo carmine, Indigotine||Synthetic food color|
|133||Brilliant Blue FCF||Synthetic food color|
|140||Chlorophylls and Chlorophyllins||Natural food color|
|141||Copper complexes of chlorophylls and chlorophyllins||Synthetic food color|
|142||Greens S||Synthetic food color|
150a – d
|Plain Caramel, caustic sulphite caramel, ammonia caramel, sulphite ammonia caramel||Synthetic food color|
|151||Black PN, Brilliant Black BN||Synthetic food color|
|153||Carbon black, vegetable carbon||Synthetic food color|
|154||Brown FK, Kipper Brown||Synthetic food color for kipper|
|155||Brown HAT, Chocolate brown HT||Synthetic food color|
|160||Carotenoids (a -,b -,g -carotene, annatto, bixin, norbixin, capsanthin, lycopene, b -apo-8‘-carotenal, ethyl ester of b -apo-8‘-carotenic acid)||Natural food colors|
|161||Xanthophylls (flavoxanthin, lutein, cryptoaxanthin, rubixanthin, violaxanthin, rhodoxanthin, canthaxanthin||Natural food colors|
|162||Beetroot Red, Betanin||Natural food color|
|163||Anthocyanins||Natural food colors|
|170||Calcium carbonate||Food color for food surfaces|
|171||Titanium dioxide||Food color for food surfaces|
|172||Iron oxides and hydroxides||Food color for food surfaces|
|173||Aluminium||Food color for food surfaces|
|174||Silver||Food color for food surfaces|
|175||Gold||Food color for food surfaces|
|180||Pigment Rubine, Lithol Rubine BK||Synthetic food color for cheese surfaces|
|200 – 203||Sorbic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium salts||Preservatives|
|210 – 213||Benzoic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium salts||Preservatives|
|214 – 219||Ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate, sodium ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate, propyl para-hydroxybenzoate, sodium propyl para-hydroxybenzoate, methyl para-hydroxybenzoate, sodium methyl para-hydroxybenzoate||Preservatives|
|220 – 228||Sulphur dioxide, sodium sulphite, sodium hydrogen sulphite, sodium metabisulphite, potassium sulphite, sodium sulphite, calcium sulphite, calcium hydrogen sulphite, potassium hydrogen sulphite||Preservatives|
|230||Biphenyl, diphenyl||Preservative for surface-treatment of citrus fruits|
|231 – 232||Orthophenyl phenol, sodium orthophenyl phenol||Preservatives for surface-treatment of citrus fruits|
|235||Natamycin, Pimaracin||Preservative for surface-treatment of meat products and cheese|
|239||Hexamehylene tetramine, Hexamine||Preservative for provolone cheese|
|242||Dimethyl dicarbonate||Preservative for drinks|
|249 – 252||Potassium nitrite, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, saltpetre||Preservatives|
|260||Acetic acid||Preservative, acidifier|
|270||Lactic acid||Preservative, antioxidant, acidifier|
|280 – 283||Propionic acid, sodium propionate, calcium propionate, potassium propionate||Preservatives|
|284||Boric acid||Preservative, admitted only for caviare|
|285||Sodium tetraborate||Preservative, admitted only for caviare|
|290||Carbon dioxide||Preservative, protective gas, leavening agent|
|300 – 302||Ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate||Antioxidants, acidifiers, stabilizers, flour-treating agents|
|304||Fatty acid esters of ascorbic acid||Antioxidants, emulsifiers, stabilizers|
|307 – 309||a-tocopherol, g-tocopherol, d-tocopherol||Antioxidants|
|310 – 312||Propyl gallate, octyl gallate, dodecyl gallate||Antioxidants|
|315 – 316||Erythorbic acid, sodium erythorbate||Antioxidants, chelating agents, stabilizers|
|325 – 327||Sodium lactate, potassium lactate, calcium lactate||Preservatives, acidity regulators, melting salts, firming agents, flavor enhancers|
|330||Citric acid||Antioxidant, acidifier, chelating agent|
|331 – 333||Sodium, potassium and calcium citrates||Antioxidants, acidifiers, melting salts, chelating agents|
|334||Tartaric acid||Acidifiers, acidity regulators, chelating agents|
|335 – 337||Sodium and potassium tartrates||Acidifiers, leavening agents, stabilizers|
|338 – 343||Phosphoric acid and its sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium phosphates||Preservatives, acidifiers, acidity regulators, emulsifiers|
|350 – 352||Sodium, potassium, and calcium malates||Acidity regulators|
|353||Metartartaric acid||Acidifier, acidity regulator, stabilizer|
|354||Calcium tartrate||Acidifier, acidity regulator, firming agent|
|355||Adipic acid||Acidifier, acidity regulator, flavor enhancer|
|363||Succinic acid||Acidifier, flavor enhancer|
|380||Triammonium citrate||Acidity regulator, stabilizer|
|385||Calcium disodium ethylene diamine tetra-acetate||Antioxidants, chelating agent, stabilizer|
|400 – 405||Alginic acid and its sodium, potassium, ammonium and calcium salts, propane-1,2-diol alginate||Gelling agent, thickener|
|406||Agar||Gelling agent, thickener|
|407||Carrageenan||Gelling agent, thickener|
|410||Locust bean gum||Gelling agent, thickener|
|412||Guar gum||Gelling agent, thickener|
|414||Acacia gum||Gelling agent, thickener|
|415||Xanthan gum||Carrier, filling agent, stabilizer, thickener|
|416||Karaya gum||Gelling agent, thickener|
|417||Tara gum||Gelling agent, thickener|
|418||Gellan gum||Gelling agent, stabilizer, thickener|
|420||Sorbitol||Carrier, humectant, sweetener|
|422||Glycerol||Filling agent, humectant|
|431||Polyoxyethylene (40)||Emulsifier for special wines|
|432 – 436||Polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monolaurate, polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monooleate, polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monopalminate, polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate, polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan tristearate||Emulsifieren, foaming agent, chelating agent|
|440a -b||Pectins||Gelling agent, stabilizer, thickener|
|442||Ammonium phosphatides||Emulsifieren, stabilizer|
|444||Sucrose acetate isobutyrate||stabilizer|
|445||Glycerol esters of wood rosins||stabilizer|
|450 – 452||Diphosphates, triphosphates and polyphosphates||Preservatives, antioxidants, acidity regulators, anti-caking agents, emulsifiers, melting salte, leavening agents|
|466||Carboxy methyl cellulose, sodium carboxy methyl cellulose||Filling agents, thickeners|
|461 – 466||Methyl cellulose, ethyl cellulose, hydroxy propyl cellulose, hydroxy propyl methyl cellulose, ethyl methyl cellulose, carboxy methyl cellulose, sodium carboxy methyl cellulose||Filling agents, foaming agents, glazing agents, thickeners|
|470||Sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium salts of fatty acids||Emulsifiers, foaming agents|
|471||Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids||Emulsifiers, foaming agents, fluor-treating agents|
|472a-f||Acetic acid esters, lactic acid esters, citric acid esters, and tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids||Emulsifiers, foaming agents, fluor-treating agents, anti-caking agents|
|473||Sucrose esters of fatty acids||Emulsifiers, foaming agents, stabilizers|
|474||Sucroglycerides||Emulsifiers, foaming agents, stabilizers|
|475||Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids||Emulsifiers, stabilizers|
|476||Polyglycerol polyricinoleate||Emulsifier, stabilizer|
|477||Propane-1,2-diol esters of fatty acids, propylene glycol esters of fatty acids||Emulsifiers, stabilizers|
|479b||Thermally oxidized soya bean oil interacted with mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids||Emulsifiers, anti-caking agents|
|481||Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate||Emulsifier, flour-treating agent|
|482||Calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate||Emulsifier, flour-treating agent|
|483||Stearyl tartrate||Emulsifier, flour-treating agent|
|491 – 495||Sorbitan monostearate, sorbitan tristearate, sorbitan monolaurate, sorbitan monooleate, sorbitan monopalmitate||Emul|
|500 – 503||Sodium, potassium and ammonium carbonates||Acidity regulators, anti-caking agents, leavening agents|
|507||Hydrochloric acid||Acidity regulator|
|508 – 511||Potassium chloride, calcium chloride, ammonium chloride/ammonia solution, Mmagnesium chloride||Firming agents, flavor enhancers|
|512||Stannous chloride||Antioxidants, acidifier, stabilizer|
|513||Sulphuric acid||Acidity regulators|
|514 – 523||Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, and aluminium sulphates||Carriers, acidity regulators, firming agents|
|524 – 528||Sodium, potassium, calcium, ammoniumand magnesium hydroxide||Acidity regulators|
|529||Calcium oxide||Acidity regulators|
|530||Magnesium oxide||Acidity regulators, anti-caking agent|
|535, 536, 538||Sodium, potassium and calcium ferrocyanide||Anti-caking agents, stabilizers|
|541||Sodium aluminium phosphate, acidic||Leavening agent|
|551||Silicon dioxide (Silica)||Carrier, Anti-caking agent|
|552 – 556||Calcium silicate, magnesium silicate, magnesium trisilicate, talc, sodium aluminium silicate, potassium aluminium silicate, calcium aluminium silicate||Carriers, anti-caking agents|
|558||Bentonite||Carrier, anti-caking agent, surface-treatment agent|
|559||Aluminium silicate (kaolin)||Carrier, anti-caking agent, surface-treatment agent|
|570||Stearic acid||Anti-caking agent, emulsifier, glazing agent, surface-treatment agent|
|574||Gluconic acid||Acidity regulators, chelating agent, stabilizer, surface-treatment agent|
|575||Glucone-delta-lactone||Acidity regulator, stabilizer|
|576 – 578||Sodium, potassium and calcium gluconate||Acidity regulators, stabilizers|
|620 – 625||Glutamic acid and its sodium, potassium, calcium, ammonium and magnesium salts||Flavor enhancers|
|626 – 629||Guanylic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium salts||Flavor enhancers|
|630 – 633||Inosinic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium salts||Flavor enhancers|
|634 – 635||Calcium 5‘-ribonucleotides, disodium 5‘ribonucleotides||Flavor enhancers|
|640||Glycine and ist sodium salt||Flavor enhancers|
|900||Dimethyl polysiloxane||Anit-foaming agent|
|901||Beeswax, white and yellow||Anti-caking agent, glazing agent, su rface-treatment agent|
|902||Candelilla wax||Anti-caking agent, glazing agent, surface-treatment agent|
|903||Carnauba wax||Anti-caking agent, glazing agent, surface-treatment agent|
|904||Shellac||Anti-caking agent, glazing agent, surface-treatment agent|
|912||Montanic acid esters||Surface-treatment agent|
|914||Oxidized polyethylene wax||Preservative, surface-treatment agent|
|927b||Carbamide||Stabilizer for gew-gum|
|941||Nitrogen||Protective gas, propellant|
|952||Cyclamic acid and its sodium and calcium salts||Sweeteners|
|954||Saccharin and its sodium and calcium salts||Sweeteners|
|957||Thaumatin||Flavor enhancer, sweetener|
|999||Quillaia extract||Foaming agent|
|1200||Polydextrose||Carrier, filling agent, humectant|
|1201||Polyvinylpyrrolidone||Carrier, glazing agent|
|1202||Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone||Carrier, glazing agent|
|1404||Oxidized starch||Carrier, thickener|
|1410||Monostarch phosphate||Carrier, thickener|
|1412||Distarch phosphate||Carrier, thickener|
|1413||Phophated distarch phosphate||Carrier, thickener|
|1414||Acetylated distarch phosphate||Carrier, thickener|
|1420||Acetylated starch, mono starch acetate||Carrier, thickener|
|1422||Acetylated distarch adipate||Carrier, thickener|
|1440||Hydroxy propyl starch||Carrier, thickener|
|1442||Hydroxy propyl distarch phosphate||Carrier, thickener|
|1450||Starch sodium octenyl succinate||Carrier, thickener|