What is in our food? E Numbers: an edible adventure

For my first post I decided to write about E numbers after coming across a programme about them on BBC iPlayer. This is actually a three-part ‘adventure’ to uncover the truth about these additives. I only watched the last part of it and here is what I’ve learned from it.

What are actually E numbers?

They are chemicals added to the food to make it look better, make it last longer and etc.

A lot of people think that E numbers can be really bad for you and that are something we should avoid. However, the truth is that some of them are quite natural. I discovered some of them such as E322 for example, or lecithin. It is actually present in every living organism and large amounts of it can be found in yolk of an egg. It is also produced from soya beans. Another E number (E407) comes from seaweed and I am sure there are many more natural E numbers keeping our food looking good, which is a good thing.. However, there are also lots of artificial additives, which are not necessarily harmless and should not be consumed in large quantities.

An edible adventure?

This programme does not mention how bad some of these E numbers are for us, but it just concludes:

Putting chemicals in food and drink is nothing new. Mankind has been doing this for centuries. What’s surprising is that many E numbers in the hi-tech, high functioning processed foods we buy today from low-fat spreads to cakes are actually from natural sources. Es are part of a stringent but carefully monitored system […]. And some are chemicals that our body actually needs for survival. There are E numbers that are important weapon against life-threatening bacteria. They can stop huge levels of wastage through food spoilage and are often the key to giving us food that we can both trust and enjoy. Like most foods, some E numbers should be eaten in moderation. But without E numbers, supermarkets as we know them today simply wouldn’t exist and the British diet could quite possibly be a lot worse.

My family actually keeps a list of the most common E numbers found in food today and they are categorised under those that are not harmful to health, those that are better to be avoided and those that can be quite dangerous to health. The question is which ones are the dangerous ones?

I made a quick search online and discovered that there are various websites categorising E numbers by how dangerous they could be. It is interesting to note that they could even be causing children to be disruptive as per article from Daily Mail.

A great website which explains everything about E numbers is ExploreENumbers which I do recommend as it answers a lot of questions you may have. It also mentions the E numbers to avoid.

The bottom line is that E numbers can be harmful indeed and everybody should be aware of this. When you go to the supermarket next time, remember this and if you haven’t done this before, maybe it’s now time to start checking the food labels.