The Truth About E Numbers

food colouring

We don’t always have time to cook in modern day life. Luckily, supermarkets and take-away are there to save our days. There are a lot of options for precooked and readymade meals. The thing is, though, these meals are full of e numbers. Is this a good or a bad thing? And what are they made of?

What are e numbers?

E numbers are added to food to make it look better, taste better, and make sure you can save food for a longer time. The “e” stands for Europe. This is because all e numbers are approved to be safe to eat by the European Union.

A little history

Almost everyone in the western world has eaten e numbers. The first and most well-known e numbers are food colouring. They have been added since the sixties. You can find them in sweets, but also in a lot of soda drinks. Later, in the seventies, they also added preservatives and antioxidants. And last, the emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners, and gelling agents.

What do they do for food?

So, why would we add e numbers to our food? Well, the main reason is food looks and tastes better, and people will buy more. So, it’s an effective way for manufacturers to make more money. E numbers also make sure the expiration date is further in the future, especially with diary based foods and drinks, meat, and readymade meals.

What happens with food without e-numbers?

The thing is that many people forgot what real food looks like. By now, we are used to the fact that bread is nice and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside for over a week. But that is mainly due to the e numbers. Real bread, how it was made 50 years ago, is only good for about a day or two. And do you know what banana yoghurt looks like without a yellow making e number? It will have an ivory colour. And vanilla yoghurt will be white with dark spots in it. But that is not how we know it these days. We are used to the yellow colour, so manufacturers keep adding the e numbers.

Are they toxic?

E numbers are not toxic. Not in the amounts you’ll find them in the EU. The ‘e’ means the European Union made sure it is safe enough to eat and you can never have a toxic amount. Many e numbers are natural nutrition. Citric is an e number and so are salt, sugar, and fat. Now, it’s not wise to eat a lot of salt, sugar, and fat, but it’s a real challenge to eat enough of these to make them toxic.

Different types of E-numbers

There are different e numbers. A lot are made of natural substances. To show you what the e numbers on your favourite food means, here are the e number categories:

E100-199: Dyes

E200-299: Preservatives / Alimentary

E300-399: Antioxidants

E400-499: Emulsifiers

E500-599: Various additives

E600-699: Flavour Enhancers

E700-799: Preservatives


I’ll stick with my home made meals

The thing is: e numbers might not be bad and perfectly safe to eat, but it still doesn’t belong in our food. I prefer homecooked meals. And sure, I’m no saint, and I buy readymade meals every now and then, but I always check the ingredients. If I see something I don’t know or something that is not natural in food, I don’t prefer to eat it.

Are you conscious about what’s in your food? And do you worry about e numbers? Let us know in the commentbox below!

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Joriet believes that you need to be the change you want to see in the world. She is very conscious about the way she lives her life in terms of happiness, health and the environment. “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” That’s why Joriet is trying all kinds of different things to live happier, healthier and to have a more responsible life. She doesn’t mind to fail. She sees failures as a lesson. On Microbuzz she will share these lessons about happiness, health and sustainability with you.