Food Additives and E-Numbers

Food additives and E-numbers are just two different ways of describing the same thing-----ingredients that the food industry adds to our food, whether we want it or not! Some are derived from naturally occurring substances and some are synthetic.

'E-numbers' are simply additives that are licensed by the European Union. In the EU, they are numbered from E100 to E1999 and are everywhere in processed food.

Outside of this area, they are licensed by regulatory bodies such as the FDA in the U.S.A. They are usually just known as 'food additives' and referred to by their chemical names.

Food additives/E-numbers, consist of food colourings, preservatives, antioxidants, acidity regulators, thickeners, stabilisers, emulsifiers, acidity regulators, anti-caking agents, flavour enhancers and other miscellaneous additives and chemicals. If they are legal additives, it means the regulatory authorities declare them to be safe.

However, despite being legal, some are known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) and others are proven to cause harm to human health, by way of food allergies, behavioural problems in children and other adverse reactions.

Children are more sensitive to them than adults are. Everyday, however, a typical child, eating a typical diet, consumes a cocktail of these nasty additives. In the 1970’s, the American doctor, Ben Feingold, was a pioneer in implicating food additives in allergic and behavioural problems in children. Many studies since, have shown his initial findings to be accurate.

One of the most common problems is the link with hyperactivity, a problem that is widespread amongst children in the developed world, many of whom are then prescribed long term drugs, such as Ritalin, to control their behaviour, compounding the harm being done to the children in question.

But there are many other health and behavioural problems linked to food additives. The list of possible side-effects is truly frightening and includes eczema, asthma, autism, ear infections, palpitations, seizures, headaches, and hives.

It is probably impossible to cut out all additives without going on a Stone Age diet, but if you are worried that your child might be affected by them, those that are most harmful to children are listed here.

To understand how untrustworthy the regulatory authorities can be when it comes to food additives, here is an example of how they operate:

* Up to July 2007, 'E128 Red 2G' was on the list of additives that are allowed, even though there have been doubts from many quarters about its safety. This E-number has now been completely banned by the EU for use in food, because further tests have concluded that it does, in fact, cause cancer.

This decision to finally ban it is to be welcomed, but it raises the question of how many other downright dangerous additives are on the allowed list, merely because they have not been rigorously tested----and how long will it take before they too are disallowed?

A worrying clue is the case of another additive on the allowed list for Europe---- E 124 Ponceau 4R. When given this additive in tests, three out of five dogs died and it has been banned in the U.S.A. for the past twenty years.

One would think that just to err on the side of caution, the E.U. would also ban it, even if they themselves had not carried out tests proving it to be dangerous. In July 2007, the E.U. announced that they are now reviewing this additive, but that the review may take up to a year and in the meantime, it will not be taken off our shelves.

I believe that these two cases call into question the reliability of the E.U.'s safety criteria when assessing food additives. In September 2007 the British Food Safety Authority published the results of tests it commissioned the University of Southahmpton to carry out.

These tests bore out what parents and Dr Feingold have known for decades----that certain E-numbers can casue hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder in some children. One might legitimately ask, why is this information only being officially recognised now?

The answer it seems, is that previous studies had shown links between these chemicals and behavioural problems in children, but were officially deemed to be inconclusive because "the effects were only observed by parents and were not confirmed independently by clinicians."

I think many parents would be extremely annoyed at this statement, as parents are the experts when it comes to their own children and would have been able to spot changes in behaviour that clinicians would have missed. Since the results of this earlier experiment were declared inconclusive, the findings were effectively suppressed, allowing the food industry off the hook.

However, even now, there are no plans to ban these food additives and the responsibility has been pushed back on to the consumer if the consumer is a worried parent not wanting to give their children these substances.

On its website, the British Food Safety Authority, in response to its own study gave the following wishy washy advice: "If parents are concerned about any additives, they should remember that, by law, food additives must be listed on the label so they can make the choice to avoid the product if they want to."

I don't think that parents of hyperactive, or ADD children, are going to be too pleased with this. What they want is for the E-numbers to be banned. There is no need for harmful E-numbers to be in our food and consumers do not want them.

It is also alarming, that only seven E-numbers were tested in this latest experiement. What about all the other hundreds of E-numbers with equally dodgy and 'inconclusive' safety tests?

The E-numbers implicated in this latest study, which should be avoided by children with tendencies towards hyperactivity, or attention-deficit-disorder are:

E211 Sodium Benzoate, when combined with any of the following:-

E102 Tartrazine

E104 Quinoline Yellow

E110 Sunset Yellow

E122 Carmoisine

E124 Ponceau 4R

E129 Allura Red

For a full list of food additives that are considered to be problematic, please click here.

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Remember, healthy eating is enjoyable!

Blessings on your table!

The Good Food Angel.


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