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E number

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Not to be confused with the mathematical constant e.Wikipedia

E numbers are the codes for designated food additives which have been assessed for consumption by the European Union - the E stands for evil European. Some people think that all foods should be produced without E numbers[1][2] as they are all toxic food additives which may either cause cancer or make children hyper-active and unruly.[3] Some "health" products proclaim themselves as "free of E numbers."

This is, of course, mostly bollocks. The entire point of "E numbers" is twofold; firstly a number recognises that the additive has been tested and is safe, and secondly the number is designed to cut down on excessive chemical jargon on food labels, standardising such ingredients across the many languages in Europe which don't always use the same chemical nomenclature. Thanks to prejudices formed against E numbers, many food companies have decided to switch back to full chemical names for their ingredients. So while your food may contain "ascorbic acid", at least it doesn't contain any of that nasty E300 shit!

Some compounds with assigned E numbers have been removed from use after new evidence indicated that they may be potentially harmful. This was the case for several dyes derived from coal tar after weak evidence was found that they may be associated with hyperactivity in children: E102 (tartrazine), E104 (quinoline yellow), E110 (sunset yellow FCF), E122 (carmoisine), E124 (ponceau 4R), E129 (allura red).[4] The truth may be that these dyes were typically added to foods high in sugar, and hyperactivity has many causes.

Ironically, some E numbers have no application in food production. This includes E939 (Helium). Others, such as E941 (Nitrogen) are used in food packaging.[5]

What are they?[edit]

They are grouped into the following categories

E100–E199 (colors)
E200–E299 (preservatives)
E300–E399 (antioxidants, acidity regulators)
E400–E499 (thickeners, stabilizers, emulsifiers)
E500–E599 (acidity regulators, anti-caking agents)
E600–E699 (flavor enhancers)
E700–E799 (antibiotics)
E900–E999 (miscellaneous)
E1000–E1999 (additional chemicals)

Some really nasty ones that you probably don't want to have in your food:

E101 - Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
E150a - Plain caramel
E160c - Paprika extract; capsanthian; capsorubin
E160d - Lycopene
E161b - Lutein
E175 - Gold
E290 - Carbon dioxide
E300 - Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)
E307 - Alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E)
E308 - Gamma-tocopherol (Vitamin E)
E309 - Delta-tocopherol (Vitamin E)
E322 - Lecithin
E330 - Citric acid
E392 - Extracts of rosemary
E410 - Locust bean gum, carob gum
E460 - Cellulose
E901 - Beeswax
E939 - Helium
E941 - Nitrogen
E948 - Oxygen (used to make meat look redder)[5]

External links[edit]