What are E-Numbers? Are they good or bad for me?


E numbers with the “E” standing for “Europe” are codes for substances used as food additives for use within the European Union and European Free Trade Association ( a trade organization consisting of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland).

These codes relate to a set of EU rules about which foods can contain them and how much you should be able to consume in a day. Below is a quick guide to these numbers while in this link you have more detailed info.


E numbers have had a lot of negative publicity but despite what you might think, when you research them in detail you find that not all E-numbers are harmful. Some examples:

  • Sulfite in wine:  Sulphur dioxide has been used in wine-making for thousands of years, ever since the ancient Romans discovered that it would keep their wine from turning into vinegar. In modern times, it is sometimes added during the fermentation process to prevent acidification (and preserve flavor), enhance color, and remove fermentation by-products such as acetaldehyde (which many scientists think cause hangovers—although, unfortunately, adding sulfites won’t make you hangover-immune either). Sulfites are common not only in wine, but in some ciders, dried fruits, and dried potatoes. E-numbers: 220-228
  • Nitrates and nitrites in cured meats: Curing red meats also includes adding sodium nitrate and potassium nitrite to the meat in order to preserve its color, prevent fats from becoming rancid, and killing harmful bacteria. You have these ingredients to thank for keeping you safe from illnesses—such as botulism poisoning—that are caused by food spoilage. E-numbers: 249-252
  • Antioxidants in pre-sliced fruits: Antioxidants are often added to pre-sliced fruits you buy in the store to remove oxygen and prevent browning. These and other fruits may be treated with ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, which has natural antioxidant characteristics. E-numbers: 170, 300, 302, 330
  • Preservatives in caviar: For those of you who can afford it or like it, guess how the shelf life and taste of caviar is preserved while avoiding bacterial activity? E-numbers: 284-285
  • Essential nutrients and vitamins: Many of these additives are actually essential nutrients and vitamins and are important for good nutrition. A few E-numbers essential for the human body are: E-numbers: 101 (vitamin B2), 300 (vitamin C), 306-9 (vitamin E) , 948 (oxygen!).

On the other hand, research into possible links between food colours and hyperactivity in children has found that consuming certain artificial food colours could cause increased hyperactivity in some children. These are called the Southampton Six and are:


  1. E110: Sunset yellow FCF
  2. E104: Quinoline yellow
  3. E122: Carmoisine
  4. E129: Allura red
  5. E102: Tartrazine
  6. E124: Ponceau 4R

Food and drink containing any of these six colours must carry a warning on the packaging. This will say ‘May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’.

And then, of course, there is all the debate about:

  • E621: the flavour enhancer, Monosodium Glutamate:
  • E250: the preservatives, Sodium nitrite and E251 or sodium nitrate
  • E211: the preservative, sodium benzoate
  • E282: the mould inhibitor, Calcium propionate
  • E951: the artifical sweetners aspartame and E952 or cyclamate
  • E320: the anti-oxidant, BHA –butylated hydroxyanisole. Etc……

UntitledSo, what is the take-away from all this? Well, that E-numbers are not all bad. And you really must educate yourself on food labels. However, as said in my last post on bio-accumulation, the less we expose ourselves to man-made chemicals, the better it is for our holistic selves. Ergo, always buy organic when possible and make most if not all your food at home. Avoid as much processed/ packaged food as possible so Be Happy and Stay Happy!


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