Girish Mahajan (Editor)

E number

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E number

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.

Numbering schemes

The numbering scheme follows that of the International Numbering System (INS) as determined by the Codex Alimentarius committee, though only a subset of the INS additives are approved for use in the European Union as food additives. Outside the European Union, E numbers are also encountered on food labelling in other jurisdictions, including the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Australia, South Africa, New York City, New Zealand and Israel. They are increasingly, though still rarely, found on North American packaging, especially on imported European products.

Colloquial use

In some European countries, "E number" is sometimes used informally as a pejorative term for artificial food additives, and products may promote themselves as "free of E numbers". This is incorrect, because many components of natural foods have E numbers (and the number is a synonym for the chemical component), e.g. vitamin C (E300) and lycopene (E160d).

Classification by numeric range

NB: Not all examples of a class fall into the given numeric range. Moreover, many chemicals, particularly in the E400–499 range, have a variety of purposes.

Full list

The list shows all components that have or had an E-number assigned. Not all additives listed are still allowed in the EU, but are listed as they used to have an E-number. For an overview of currently allowed additives see here.


E number Wikipedia

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