The meaning of the letter “E” in food label codes

The Food Additives they are present in our diet. They are substances that are added to food to maintain or improve its safety, freshness, flavor, texture or appearance.

These substances can be obtained from plants, animals or minerals or be produced synthetically. They are added intentionally for a specific purpose and to provide the food in question with characteristics that consumers often identify with it. Today, hundreds of additives are used with specific functions that allow food to be safer or look better.

A little history

Forever, man has tried to preserve your food and, over time, it has perfected the methods to achieve this, from drying or smoking to salting. With the arrival of industrial advances, preservation techniques grew exponentially, giving way to freezing, deep freezing, vacuum packaging, lyophilization or sterilization, among others.

And, with the development of chemistry, additives such as preservatives or antioxidants, for example, arrived. Added to this was a new concern for appearance and for achieving a more pleasant taste of food, which brought the use of colorings and aromas and flavor enhancers.

exist 27 different classes of additives depending on its properties. For example, colorants are additives that add or restore the color of food while preservatives increase the shelf life of the food. We can also find antioxidants, emulsifiers, stabilizers, gelling agents, acids or flavor enhancers, among others.

spices, colorants

International approval

The who, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), evaluates the human health risks of food additives through an international and independent group of scientific experts.

This group checks the safety of natural and synthetic food additives and gives the approval for use of those that do not present health risks for consumers.

However, allergic reactions and intolerances can occur in those with special sensitivity or predisposition. Know these additives well and read food labels carefully allows allergies to be avoided.

European regulation

The European Union has promulgated a regulation that regulates the inclusion in the labeling of food additives, establishing a code for these substances, formed by the letter “E” followed by three digits.

The EU approved list of food additives includes the name of the food additive and its E number, the foods to which it can be added, the conditions under which it can be used and the restrictions on its direct sale to the final consumer.

You can consult the list of food additives of the European Union published in the Official Journal of the European Union in 2011 here.