One the most well-known food additives is MSG, which is used for its flavour-enhancing properties. And it has a bit of a reputation: many people claim that it causes allergies – bringing them out in a rash if they eat too much Chinese food!
What is an E number?
All the additives in our food are regulated by EFSA, The European Food Safety Authority. This is an independent body which is funded by the EU. Essentially, E number just means approved by the EU.
The idea that an E number is fundamentally bad for you or toxic isn’t true. A tomato for example, contains seven different E numbers.
Most of us associate E numbers with unnatural ingredients. But the idea that an E number is fundamentally bad for you or toxic isn’t true. A tomato for example, contains seven different E numbers including Glutamate (which we know as MSG), Carotene (E160a) and Riboflavin (E101). There are even E numbers for Oxygen and Nitrogen.
So, E numbers aren’t dangerous in themselves. However, many believe that some can have adverse effects when consumed in large quantities. The important thing is to get the balance right with the types of foods we’re eating and particularly the amount of processed foods, which contain more of these additives.
To learn more about additives listen to The Food Programme special.