What Are E Numbers?

E numbers are number codes for food additives that have been assessed for use within the European Union (the “E” prefix stands for “Europe”).They are commonly found on food labels throughout the European Union.  Safety assessment and approval are the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority. The numbering scheme follows that of the International Numbering System (INS) as determined by the Codex Alimentarius committee though only a subset of the INS additives are approved for use in the European Union. E numbers are also encountered on food labelling in other jurisdictions, including the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. The “E” prefix is omitted in Australia and New Zealand. They are increasingly, though rarely, found on North American packaging, especially in Canada on imported European products.

In casual language in the UK and Ireland, “E number” is used as a pejorative term for artificial food additives, and products may promote themselves as “free of E numbers” even though most of the natural ingredients contain components that also have an E number such as vitamin C (E300) or lycopene (E160d). Because vitamin C has an E number (actually several E numbers, 300-305, for different chemical forms of the vitamin), it is impossible to live on a diet without any substances that have E numbers. “Free of E numbers” then simply means that pure forms of the substances are not intentionally added, even though identical substances certainly exist naturally in nearly all foods.

What Do E Numbers Do?

Additives may be natural, nature identical or artificial. Natural additives are substances found naturally in a foodstuff and are extracted from this food to be used in another, for example beetroot juice with its bright purple colour can be used to colour other foods such as sweets. Nature identical additives are man made copies of substances that occur naturally. For example, benzoic acid is a substance that is found in nature and is made synthetically and used as a preservative. Artificial additives are substances made synthetically and are not found naturally.

Additives are used for a variety of purposes including to keep food wholesome until it is eaten, make the food look or taste better, ensure that the food is convenient to store or use, keep the price of the food competitive, make the food healthier (higher in vitamins or lower in fat) and aid in processing and manufacture.


This information has been supplied by Mistral Pure Chemicals. Click here to view Website

Classification By Numeric Range

100–109 Yellows
110–119 Orange
120–129 Reds
130–139 Blues & violets
140–149 Greens
150–159 Browns & Blacks
160–199 Gold and Others
200–209 Sorbates
210–219 Benzoates
220–229 Sulphites
230–239 Phenols & Formates (methanoates)
240–259 Nitrates
260–269 Acetates (ethanoates)
270–279 Lactates
280–289 Propionates (propanoates)
290–299 Others
Antioxidants & acidity regulators
300–305 Ascorbates (vitamin C)
306–309 Tocopherol (vitamin E)
310–319 Gallates & Erythorbates
320–329 Lactates
330–339 Citrates & Tartrates
340–349 Phosphates
350–359 Malates & Adipates
360–369 Succinates & Fumarates
370–399 Others
Thickeners, stabilisers & emulsifiers
400–409 Alginates
410–419 Natural Gums
420–429 Other Natural Agents
430–439 Polyoxyethene Compounds
440–449 Natural Emulsifiers
450–459 Phosphates
460–469 Cellulose Compounds
470–489 Fatty Acids & Compounds
490–499 Others
pH regulators & anti-caking agents
500–509 Mineral Acids & Bases
510–519 Chlorides & Sulphates
520–529 Sulphates & Hydroxides
530–549 Alkali Metal Compounds
550–559 Silicates
570–579 Stearates & Gluconates
580–599 Others
Flavour enhancers
620–629 Glutamates
630–639 Inosinates
640–649 Others
900–909 Waxes
910–919 Synthetic Glazes
920–929 Improving Agents
930–949 Packaging Gases
950–969 Sweeteners
990–999 Foaming Agents
Additional chemicals
New chemicals that do not fall into standard classification schemes

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