Food With E Numbers

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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.

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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?

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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)

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.

The evidence behind the Southampton six is mixed. Peer/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA
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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).

Tartrazine (E102)

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.

Broad overview:

  • 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)
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Food additives and E numbers

Understanding food labeling

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‘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.
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  • 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

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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.

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Without many food additives, such as preservatives that help eliminate bacteria, food will become quickly rancid and poisonous making it difficult to produce and sell globally. The balance lies in whether or not you are buying food that has been heavily processed or contains sugars and colorings that are detriment to health of you and your children.

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’sKEY DESCRIPTIVE LABELSNARRATIVE DESCRIPTION
100CurcuminNatural food color
101LactoflavinNatural food color
101aRiboflavin-5-phosphateNatural food color
102TartrazineSynthetic food color
104Quinoline YellowSynthetic food color
110Sunset Yellow FCF, Orange Yellow SSynthetic food color
120Cochineal, Carminic acid, CarminesNatural food color
122Carmoisine, AzorubineSynthetic food color
123AmaranthSynthetic food color
124Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A, Brilliant Scarlet 4RSynthetic food color
127ErythrosineSynthetic food color
131Patent Blue VSynthetic food color
132Indigo carmine, IndigotineSynthetic food color
133Brilliant Blue FCFSynthetic food color
140Chlorophylls and ChlorophyllinsNatural food color
141Copper complexes of chlorophylls and chlorophyllinsSynthetic food color
142Greens SSynthetic food color
150,
150a – d
Plain Caramel, caustic sulphite caramel, ammonia caramel, sulphite ammonia caramelSynthetic food color
151Black PN, Brilliant Black BNSynthetic food color
153Carbon black, vegetable carbonSynthetic food color
154Brown FK, Kipper BrownSynthetic food color for kipper
155Brown HAT, Chocolate brown HTSynthetic food color
160Carotenoids (a -,b -,g -carotene, annatto, bixin, norbixin, capsanthin, lycopene, b -apo-8‘-carotenal, ethyl ester of b -apo-8‘-carotenic acid)Natural food colors
161Xanthophylls (flavoxanthin, lutein, cryptoaxanthin, rubixanthin, violaxanthin, rhodoxanthin, canthaxanthinNatural food colors
162Beetroot Red, BetaninNatural food color
163AnthocyaninsNatural food colors
170Calcium carbonateFood color for food surfaces
171Titanium dioxideFood color for food surfaces
172Iron oxides and hydroxidesFood color for food surfaces
173AluminiumFood color for food surfaces
174SilverFood color for food surfaces
175GoldFood color for food surfaces
180Pigment Rubine, Lithol Rubine BKSynthetic food color for cheese surfaces
200 – 203Sorbic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium saltsPreservatives
210 – 213Benzoic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium saltsPreservatives
214 – 219Ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate, sodium ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate, propyl para-hydroxybenzoate, sodium propyl para-hydroxybenzoate, methyl para-hydroxybenzoate, sodium methyl para-hydroxybenzoatePreservatives
220 – 228Sulphur dioxide, sodium sulphite, sodium hydrogen sulphite, sodium metabisulphite, potassium sulphite, sodium sulphite, calcium sulphite, calcium hydrogen sulphite, potassium hydrogen sulphitePreservatives
230Biphenyl, diphenylPreservative for surface-treatment of citrus fruits
231 – 232Orthophenyl phenol, sodium orthophenyl phenolPreservatives for surface-treatment of citrus fruits
233ThiabendazolePreservative
234NisinPreservative
235Natamycin, PimaracinPreservative for surface-treatment of meat products and cheese
239Hexamehylene tetramine, HexaminePreservative for provolone cheese
242Dimethyl dicarbonatePreservative for drinks
249 – 252Potassium nitrite, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, saltpetrePreservatives
260Acetic acidPreservative, acidifier
270Lactic acidPreservative, antioxidant, acidifier
280 – 283Propionic acid, sodium propionate, calcium propionate, potassium propionatePreservatives
284Boric acidPreservative, admitted only for caviare
285Sodium tetraboratePreservative, admitted only for caviare
290Carbon dioxidePreservative, protective gas, leavening agent
296Malic acidAcidifier
297Fumaric acidAcidifier
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300 – 302Ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbateAntioxidants, acidifiers, stabilizers, flour-treating agents
304Fatty acid esters of ascorbic acidAntioxidants, emulsifiers, stabilizers
306Tocopherol-rich extractAntioxidants
307 – 309a-tocopherol, g-tocopherol, d-tocopherolAntioxidants
310 – 312Propyl gallate, octyl gallate, dodecyl gallateAntioxidants
315 – 316Erythorbic acid, sodium erythorbateAntioxidants, chelating agents, stabilizers
320Butylated hydroxyanisoleAntioxidant
321Butylated hydroxytolueneAntioxidant
322LecithinEmulsifier
325 – 327Sodium lactate, potassium lactate, calcium lactatePreservatives, acidity regulators, melting salts, firming agents, flavor enhancers
330Citric acidAntioxidant, acidifier, chelating agent
331 – 333Sodium, potassium and calcium citratesAntioxidants, acidifiers, melting salts, chelating agents
334Tartaric acidAcidifiers, acidity regulators, chelating agents
335 – 337Sodium and potassium tartratesAcidifiers, leavening agents, stabilizers
338 – 343Phosphoric acid and its sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium phosphatesPreservatives, acidifiers, acidity regulators, emulsifiers
350 – 352Sodium, potassium, and calcium malatesAcidity regulators
353Metartartaric acidAcidifier, acidity regulator, stabilizer
354Calcium tartrateAcidifier, acidity regulator, firming agent
355Adipic acidAcidifier, acidity regulator, flavor enhancer
363Succinic acidAcidifier, flavor enhancer
380Triammonium citrateAcidity regulator, stabilizer
385Calcium disodium ethylene diamine tetra-acetateAntioxidants, chelating agent, stabilizer
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400 – 405Alginic acid and its sodium, potassium, ammonium and calcium salts, propane-1,2-diol alginateGelling agent, thickener
406AgarGelling agent, thickener
407CarrageenanGelling agent, thickener
410Locust bean gumGelling agent, thickener
412Guar gumGelling agent, thickener
414Acacia gumGelling agent, thickener
415Xanthan gumCarrier, filling agent, stabilizer, thickener
416Karaya gumGelling agent, thickener
417Tara gumGelling agent, thickener
418Gellan gumGelling agent, stabilizer, thickener
420SorbitolCarrier, humectant, sweetener
421MannitolCarrier, sweetener
422GlycerolFilling agent, humectant
431Polyoxyethylene (40)Emulsifier for special wines
432 – 436Polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monolaurate, polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monooleate, polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monopalminate, polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate, polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan tristearateEmulsifieren, foaming agent, chelating agent
440a -bPectinsGelling agent, stabilizer, thickener
442Ammonium phosphatidesEmulsifieren, stabilizer
444Sucrose acetate isobutyratestabilizer
445Glycerol esters of wood rosinsstabilizer
450 – 452Diphosphates, triphosphates and polyphosphatesPreservatives, antioxidants, acidity regulators, anti-caking agents, emulsifiers, melting salte, leavening agents
466Carboxy methyl cellulose, sodium carboxy methyl celluloseFilling agents, thickeners
461 – 466Methyl cellulose, ethyl cellulose, hydroxy propyl cellulose, hydroxy propyl methyl cellulose, ethyl methyl cellulose, carboxy methyl cellulose, sodium carboxy methyl celluloseFilling agents, foaming agents, glazing agents, thickeners
470Sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium salts of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, foaming agents
471Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, foaming agents, fluor-treating agents
472a-fAcetic acid esters, lactic acid esters, citric acid esters, and tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, foaming agents, fluor-treating agents, anti-caking agents
473Sucrose esters of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, foaming agents, stabilizers
474SucroglyceridesEmulsifiers, foaming agents, stabilizers
475Polyglycerol esters of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, stabilizers
476Polyglycerol polyricinoleateEmulsifier, stabilizer
477Propane-1,2-diol esters of fatty acids, propylene glycol esters of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, stabilizers
479bThermally oxidized soya bean oil interacted with mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, anti-caking agents
481Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylateEmulsifier, flour-treating agent
482Calcium stearoyl-2-lactylateEmulsifier, flour-treating agent
483Stearyl tartrateEmulsifier, flour-treating agent
491 – 495Sorbitan monostearate, sorbitan tristearate, sorbitan monolaurate, sorbitan monooleate, sorbitan monopalmitateEmul
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500 – 503Sodium, potassium and ammonium carbonatesAcidity regulators, anti-caking agents,        leavening agents 
507Hydrochloric acidAcidity regulator
508 – 511Potassium chloride, calcium chloride, ammonium chloride/ammonia solution, Mmagnesium chlorideFirming agents, flavor enhancers
512Stannous chlorideAntioxidants, acidifier, stabilizer
513Sulphuric acidAcidity regulators
514 – 523Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, and aluminium sulphatesCarriers, acidity regulators, firming agents
524 – 528Sodium, potassium, calcium, ammoniumand magnesium hydroxideAcidity regulators
529Calcium oxideAcidity regulators
530Magnesium oxideAcidity regulators, anti-caking agent
535, 536, 538Sodium, potassium and calcium ferrocyanideAnti-caking agents, stabilizers
541Sodium aluminium phosphate, acidicLeavening agent
551Silicon dioxide (Silica)Carrier, Anti-caking agent
552 – 556Calcium silicate, magnesium silicate, magnesium trisilicate, talc, sodium aluminium silicate, potassium aluminium silicate, calcium aluminium silicateCarriers, anti-caking agents
558BentoniteCarrier, anti-caking agent, surface-treatment agent
559Aluminium silicate (kaolin)Carrier, anti-caking agent, surface-treatment agent
570Stearic acidAnti-caking agent, emulsifier, glazing agent, surface-treatment agent
574Gluconic acidAcidity regulators, chelating agent, stabilizer, surface-treatment agent
575Glucone-delta-lactoneAcidity regulator, stabilizer
576 – 578Sodium, potassium and calcium gluconateAcidity regulators, stabilizers
579Ferrous gluconateStabilizer
585Ferrous lactateStabilizer
620 – 625Glutamic acid and its sodium, potassium, calcium, ammonium and magnesium saltsFlavor enhancers
626 – 629Guanylic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium saltsFlavor enhancers
630 – 633Inosinic acid and its sodium, potassium and calcium saltsFlavor enhancers
634 – 635Calcium 5‘-ribonucleotides, disodium 5‘ribonucleotidesFlavor enhancers
640Glycine and ist sodium saltFlavor enhancers
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900Dimethyl polysiloxaneAnit-foaming agent
901Beeswax, white and yellowAnti-caking agent, glazing agent, su  rface-treatment agent
902Candelilla waxAnti-caking agent, glazing agent, surface-treatment agent
903Carnauba waxAnti-caking agent, glazing agent, surface-treatment agent
904ShellacAnti-caking agent, glazing agent, surface-treatment agent
912Montanic acid estersSurface-treatment agent
914Oxidized polyethylene waxPreservative, surface-treatment agent
927bCarbamideStabilizer for gew-gum
938ArgonProtective gas
939HeliumProtective gas
941NitrogenProtective gas, propellant
942Nitrous oxidePropellant
948OxygenPropellant
950Acesulfame KSweetener
951AspartameSweetener
952Cyclamic acid and its sodium and calcium saltsSweeteners
953IsomaltCarrier, sweetener
954Saccharin and its sodium and calcium saltsSweeteners
957ThaumatinFlavor enhancer, sweetener
959Neohesperidine DCSweetener
965MaltitolCarrier, sweetener
966LactitolSweetener
967XylitolCarrier, sweetener
999Quillaia extractFoaming agent
1105LysozymePreservative
1200PolydextroseCarrier, filling agent, humectant
1201PolyvinylpyrrolidoneCarrier, glazing agent
1202PolyvinylpolypyrrolidoneCarrier, glazing agent
1404Oxidized starchCarrier, thickener
1410Monostarch phosphateCarrier, thickener
1412Distarch phosphateCarrier, thickener
1413Phophated distarch phosphateCarrier, thickener
1414Acetylated distarch phosphateCarrier, thickener
1420Acetylated starch, mono starch acetateCarrier, thickener
1422Acetylated distarch adipateCarrier, thickener
1440Hydroxy propyl starchCarrier, thickener
1442Hydroxy propyl distarch phosphateCarrier, thickener
1450Starch sodium octenyl succinateCarrier, thickener
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