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E-numbers Database

The E numbering system was developed in order to keep track of massive amounts of additives available in the market and became a legal requirement on packaging in the 1980s. E stands for European and thus denotes that additives tagged with an E number has passed safety tests and has been granted use in the European Union.

In order to standardize and avoid confusion, each additive is assigned its own unique number. At a later stage, the numbering system was adapted for international use by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, hence the International Numbering System (INS) was born. INS maintains the same number for each additive but without the E. For further information on E numbers, please visit The Codex General Standard for Food Additive (GSFA).


Food additives can be divided into several groups, although there is some overlap between them. The list below gives a brief detail on each category.

The top left menu takes you directly to each category depending on the way they are numbered.

Food acids are added to make flavours "sharper", and also act as preservatives and antioxidants. Common food acids include vinegar, citric acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, fumaric acid, lactic acid.

Acidity regulators

Acidity regulators are used to change or otherwise control the acidity and alkalinity of foods.

Anticaking agents
Anticaking agents keep powders such as milk powder flowing freely.

Antifoaming agents
Antifoaming agents reduce or prevent foaming in foods.

Antioxidants such as vitamin C act as preservatives by inhibiting the effects of oxygen on food, and are generally beneficial to health.

Bulking agents
Bulking agents such as starch are additives that increase the bulk of a food without affecting its nutritional value.

Food colouring
Colourings are added to food to replace colours lost during preparation, or to make food look more attractive.

Colour retention
In contrast to colourings, colour retention agents are used to preserve a food's existing colour.

Emulsifiers allow water and oils to remain mixed together in an emulsion, as in mayonnaise, ice cream, and homogenised milk.

Flavours are additives that give food a particular taste or smell, and may be derived from natural ingredients or created artificially.

Flavour enhancers
Flavour enhancers enhance a food's existing flavours.

Flour treatment agents
Flour treatment agents are added to flour to improve its colour or its use in baking.

Humectants prevent foods from drying out.

Preservatives prevent or inhibit spoilage of food due to fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms.

Propellants are pressurised gases used to expel food from its container.

Stabilizers, thickeners and gelling agents, like agar or pectin (used in jam for example) give foods a firmer texture. While they are not true emulsifiers, they help to stabilize emulsions.

Sweeteners are added to foods for flavouring. Sweeteners other than sugar are added to keep the food energy (calories) low, or because they have beneficial effects for diabetes mellitus and tooth decay.

Thickeners are substances which, when added to the mixture, increase its viscosity without substantially modifying its other properties

The Halal additives list has been established by The Halal Technical Committee JAKIM in 2006 and it has been improvised to match with current EU approved additives.