E numbers – What do they really mean? Plus my top 5 E numbers to avoid.

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If you have ever looked at the labelling on any packaging these days you will have noticed that there are certain ingredients that are assigned an E number. In today’s world where transparency on ingredients has become more prevalent and knowing what you’re putting in your body has become more of a concern, why are some of the things going into our food being masked by a label?

More importantly, what can you do about it? Well, let’s have a quick look at what E numbers actually are. E numbers are a code number preceded by the letter E, denoting food additives numbered in accordance with European Union directives. These directives are an ingredients list of your packaged foods that replace the chemical or common name of particular food additives. These food additives are used to enhance the colour, flavour, texture or act as a preservative. E number restrictions vary between countries, depending on how the local regulatory authorities interpret the product’s toxicity results. I don’t know about you, but it is hugely concerning to know that natural ingredients are being replaced with chemicals or E numbers (which may not even be regulated).

Maybe, I have jumped the gun here because not all E numbers are bad. Many E numbers are naturally occurring substances, such as vitamin B1 (E101) and even oxygen (E948). But I’m talking about synthetic chemicals that are entering our diet because a company wants a drink to look a certain way or a muffin to stay moist. Ultimately, it’s your decision if you want to check the ingredients of packaged foods or not. Personally I would want to know which chemicals are being added to my foods so as to avoid any that maybe potentially harmful. Here are 5 E numbers that I avoid as much as I can.

1) E133 - Blue Food Colouring

Found in almost all blue coloured sports drinks, E133 is linked to hyperactivity in children.

2) E941 - Nitrogen Gas

Naturally occurring nitrogen gas used to fill the insides of crisps packets to as a preservative to stop oxidisation.

3) E621 - MSG

Monosodium Glutamate is found in a lot of Chinese take aways.

4) E476 - Ammonium Phosphates

Used as an emulsifier in baking, chocolate and as a thickener.

5) E220 - Sulphur Dioxide

A preservative used to counteract acidic foods.

Ultimately, E-numbers are just a code for shortening the names of ingredients. What we need to be aware of is what these ingredients are and what we are consuming. So now you know a little more about E Numbers and what they really mean. Will you have your own top 5 E numbers to avoid?

Written by: Matthew

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