The E Numbers Game. A Guide to Digits You Want to Avoid

We don’t often delve into the politics of food but we’ve been reading a fascinating/scary piece in the Guardian this week about the links between combinations of E number additives and hyperactivity in children’s behavior.

The story is sparked by a leaked document from a new report being conducted for the UK’s Food Standard’s Agency. Writes the Guardian:

"Some experts fear that although additives may have been approved on an
individual basis, we still don’t know what their combined effect on the
body may be. Professor Vyvyan Howard, a pathologist and professor of
bioimaging at the University of Ulster, who has conducted research into
the "cocktail" effects of food additives, says, "These chemicals are
tested one at a time and declared safe one at a time, but we are
exposed to a mixture of chemicals. Their combined effect could be more
than simply adding two or three separate chemicals."

The paper offers a handy guide to how some popular E numbers affect the body. Here’s a sneak peak:

The Number:     E211 – sodium benzoate

Where’s it found?   Soft drinks, pickles and sauces to prevent mould growing

What could it do?       Damage DNA in a similar way to Parkinson’s disease

The Number: E621 – monosodium glutamate

Where’s it found?  A Flavor enhancer often associated with Chinese food and found in canned and frozen foods, and snacks like crisps.

What could it do? Damage the retina and trigger migraines

The Number: E102 – tartrazine

Where’s it found? This synthetic dye gives many foods their bright yellow color.

What could it do? Studies show E102 can cause hives, itchy skin or asthma
in susceptible people. It is commonly linked to hyperactivity in
children.

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