E number

code for substances that are used as food additives

An E number is a number code which is used as a food additive. E numbers are usually found on food labels throughout the European Union. The numbering scheme follows that of the International Numbering System (INS) as determined by the Codex Alimentarius committee. Only a subset of the INS additives are approved for use in the European Union, the 'E' prefix which stands for Europe. In casual language in the UK and Ireland, the term "E-number" is used as a pejorative term for artificial food additives, and products may promote themselves as "free of E-numbers" even though some of the ingredients (e.g. bicarbonate of soda) do have such a code.

E numbers are also encountered on food labeling in other jurisdictions, including the GCC, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. They are increasingly (though still rarely) found on North American packaging, especially in Canada. The "E" prefix is omitted in Australia and New Zealand, and the term "E-Number" unknown.

Usually, the number has 3 digits. E numbers between E100 and E199 are colors. E numbers between E200 and E299 are preservatives. E numbers between E300 and E399 are antioxidants and acidity regulators. E numbers between E400 and E499 are thickeners, stabilizers and emulsifiers. E numbers between E500 and E599 are pH regulators. E numbers between E600 and E699 are flavor enhancers. E numbers between E700 and E799 are antibiotics. E numbers between E900 and E999 are glazing agents, gases, and sweeteners.

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