Introduction and description
More details will be added later, as there are may categories of food additive that require considerable research. We will use the groupings recognised by the E number clasification.
E numbers are codes for substances that are permitted to be used as food additives for use within the European Union and Switzerland. The "E" stands for "Europe". Commonly found on food labels, their safety assessment and approval are the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority.
Having a single unified list for food additives was first agreed upon in 1962 with food colouring. In 1964, the directives for preservatives were added, 1970 for antioxidants and 1974 for the emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners and gelling agents. The list now includes
- E100–E199 (colours)
- E200–E299 (preservatives)
- E300–E399 (antioxidants, acidity regulators)
- E400–E499 (thickeners, stabilisers, emulsifiers)
- E500–E599 (acidity regulators, anti-caking agents)
- E600–E699 (flavour enhancer)
- E700–E799 (antibiotics)
- E900–E999 (glazing agents and sweeteners)
- E1000–E1599 (additional chemicals)
Some food additives are described under separate headings as well as this one
- Artificial food colourings - including all the Yellow Food colourings
- Benzene -Benzene is classified as a clastogen. A clastogen in biology is a mutagenic agent giving rise to or inducing disruption or breakages of chromosomes, leading to sections of the chromosome being deleted, added, or rearranged. This process is a form of mutagenesis, and can lead to carcinogenesis. Benzene has been found in soft drinks particularly those with Vitamin C added and added preservatives
· sodium benzoate (E211),
· potassium benzoate (E 212), or
· calcium benzoate (E 213).
According to Wikipedia “ Citric acid is not thought to induce significant benzene production in combination with benzoic acid, but some evidence suggests that in the presence of ascorbic or erythorbic acid [Erythorbic acid is a stereoisomer of ascorbic acid] and benzoic acid, citric acid may accelerate the production of benzene”
- Vitamin supplements - when chemically derived vitamins are added to food, they are given an E number. E300–305 are ascorbates (vitamin C); E306–309 is Tocopherol (vitamin E)
- Antibiotics - it may be a surprise to some people that antibiotics are added to foods, but as you can see they have a range of numbers
- Mineral supplements - minerals can appear in many different guises depending on their purpose
- Silver nanoparticles -The use of silver nanoparticles in food, food contact materials, and dietary supplements has increased significantly owing to their antibacterial and antifungal properties. [PMID: 24522958]. This is most unfortunate as they are toxic, as you will see from the entry on the site
- Aluminium compounds -Unbelievable but true. Aluminium sulfate is used as a food additive (E number E173) principally as a colouring. It is even approved by the EU. Perhaps a little more worrying it is used in processed cheese, the staple of most children's sandwiches and a fairly key part of many an America's diet in a hamburger. The chemical used here is called sodium aluminum phosphate and is used as an emulsifier. As a food additive, it has the E number E541. Aluminium is toxic, causing blood brain barrier destruction and a host of other diseases.
Oral Al bioavailability was determined in the rat from basic [26Al]-sodium aluminum phosphate in a process cheese. Consumption of approximately 1g cheese containing 1.5% or 3% basic SALP resulted in oral Al bioavailability (F) of approximately 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively, and time to maximum serum 26Al concentration (Tmax) of 8-9h. …. these results suggest food contributes much more Al to systemic circulation, and potential Al body burden, than does drinking water. PMID: 18436363
- Potassium bromate - is typically used in the United States as a flour improver (E number E924). It acts to strengthen the dough and to allow higher rising. It is an oxidizing agent. Potassium bromate is classified as a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It has been banned from use in food products in the European Union, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Nigeria, South Korea, Peru and some other countries. It was banned in Sri Lanka in 2001, China in 2005, and India on 20 June 2016.
In the United States of America, it has not been banned.
Japanese baked goods manufacturers stopped using potassium bromate voluntarily in 1980; however, some manufacturers resumed its use in 2005, claiming they had new production methods to reduce the amount of the chemical which remained in the final product. It also causes genetic mutation:
Potassium bromate (KBrO3) … is carcinogenic in rats and nephrotoxic in both man and experimental animals. …. KBrO3 showed relatively strong potential inducing chromosome aberrations both in vitro and in vivo. PMID: 2269236 ; PMCID: PMC1567851
- Polysorbate 80 - is a nonionic surfactant and emulsifier often used in foods and cosmetics. This synthetic compound is a viscous, water-soluble yellow liquid. Its E number: E433
- Sodium metabisulphate -Sodium metabisulphite is used as an antioxidant agent in many pharmaceutical formulations and is extensively used as a food preservative and disinfectant. It is used, for example, as a bleaching agent in the production of coconut cream. Its E number: E223. It can cause allergic reactions, including respiratory reactions in asthmatics, anaphylaxis, and other allergic reactions. It can cause testicular injury and affect sperm production. And there is evidence that it causes heart damage.
- Sodium nitrite is the inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaNO2. It is a white to slightly yellowish crystalline powder that is very soluble in water and is hygroscopic. It is used for curing meats and cheeses. It has the E number E250. It is approved for usage in the EU, USA and Australia and New Zealand
- Table salt - one preservative and flavouring agent used in enormous quantities is table salt. Table salt differs from sea salt for example, or crystallised salt in that it contains anticaking agents such as sodium aluminosilicate or magnesium carbonate to make it free-flowing. In other words table salt contains aluminium.
- Trans fat - also called trans-unsaturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids, are a type of unsaturated fat that became widely produced industrially from vegetable fats starting in the 1950s for use in margarine, snack food, and packaged baked goods and for frying fast food. They are implicated in causing intestinal diseases such as Crohn's and IBS, Endothelial dysfunction, atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, liver disease, infertility in men in particular, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's dementia and other forms of brain damage.
References and further reading
Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Jun;46(6):2261-6. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2008.03.004. Epub 2008 Mar 10. Aluminum bioavailability from basic sodium aluminum phosphate, an approved food additive emulsifying agent, incorporated in cheese. Yokel RA1, Hicks CL, Florence RL.
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