Additives Most Likely To Cause Adverse Reactions. Food Additive Numbers List & Effects


These days, shopping is not easy if we want to make sure we’re eating healthy. Thousands of different substances are added to the food we buy in stores, all supposed to improve its taste, smell, and appearance, and extend its expiry date. These additives are just a minimal percentage of the products, but if consumed daily, they may cause unwanted reactions of the body. Read on for more information about food additives.

What are food additives?

Before food reaches stores, it is “improved” in many ways. Ever wondered what it is that makes some foods look and taste better, and what’s more, have a suspiciously long expiry date? Food additives like colours, preservatives, flavours enhancers, stabilisers, and antioxidants make products more appealing, flavoursome, and longer lasting on the supermarket shelves.
Many food additives can come from natural environments, however, most food producers use more cost-effective solutions and create additives in a lab. That’s the reason why there are so many ingredients listed on product labels that are hard to understand.
Some food additives are safe, however a lot of them can cause allergic reactions or even diseases when consumed in large amounts.

Additives labelling rules in Australia

Checking labels is very important as most food additives must be printed on the label of each product in the supermarket. Every country has its own regulations regarding the name of food additives and amounts that can be used in each product. In Australia, all food producers have to follow the Food Standards Code created by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ).
As stated by FSANZ, a product’s ingredients must be listed by their class name followed by the name of the food additive or the food additive number, for example, Colour (Caramel I) or Colour (150a). Enzymes and most flavourings (or flavour) do not need to be named or identified by a food additive number, and can be labelled by their class name only. The class name indicates what the food additive does (i.e. its purpose). ‘Food additive numbers (based on an internationally-accepted numbering system) can be used as an alternative to names, which can be long and confusing.
That’s why it is important to check the labels and understand what each ingredient means. You can find a list of food additives here.

What reactions can additives in food cause?

Because the body’s reactions to food additives are difficult to diagnose, their cause is often unrecognized. However, there are studies that show that less than 1% of adults and up to 2% of children suffer from reactions to food additives.
There are many reactions that may indicate an allergy or intolerance to food additives. When looking for the causes of our symptoms, all different reactions should be considered.

How is an allergy to food additives diagnosed?

Suspicion of allergy to food additives occurs when a person experiences symptoms after eating ready-made food or a restaurant meal. Different food products may still contain the same additives, e.g. colours and preservatives. Allergy tests can only be carried out on natural additives like carmine, saffron, and arnota. Since testing for allergy to synthetic additives is not possible, diagnosis requires a diet free of chemical food additives.

Most common food additives

Food colours (E100 – E199)

Food colours are not really important when it comes to the taste and aroma of a product. Their role is only limited to restoring the original colour of products, which is modified during production processes. They are also used to add some colour to products that are naturally colourless. Food colours are not harmful to health, but some can be dangerous for allergy sufferers and can be harmful if consumed in larger amounts.

The food industry uses natural colours like caramel (E150), beta-carotene (E160a), or beet red (E162) to give our foods nice vibrant colours. These are safe for our health and there is no limit when it comes to consuming them. However, most food products contain artificial colours that are created in labs and can cause allergic reactions, or in some cases, can be harmful for our health.

Below is a list of artificial colours you should be careful of, as they can cause some health issues:

E102 – Tartrazine

This is a yellow food colour and also an ingredient in green or blue products. It contains 4-aminobiphenyl, which is a carcinogenic substance. Independent studies conducted in over a dozen countries around the world confirmed the carcinogenic effect of 4-aminobiphenyl. In particular, it often causes tumours in the urinary and sexual systems, especially bladder cancer.
Tartrazine also causes allergic reactions which may be poorly tolerated by the body and lead to digestive disorders. Tartrazine is suspected to cause severe asthma attacks. People who are allergic to aspirin will most likely also have an allergic reaction to tartrazine.

Despite its harmful effects on health, tartrazine is widely used. It is a popular ingredient in confectionery and baked products. When tasting sweets, cookies, pastries, cakes, jellies, ice cream, fruit drinks, isotonic and carbonated drinks, chips, chewing gum or breakfast cereals, we are unconsciously reaching for tartrazine. It is also found in fast food, which we are also advised not to eat for many other reasons.

Dishes with jam, marmalade, and even mustard, horseradish, or ready-made sauces are also sources of this colour 102. Ready-made soups, and even theoretically healthier pasta that requires cooking, are also coloured with tartrazine.

E110 – Sunset Yellow FCF

Due to the potential harmfulness, the use of E110 is prohibited in some countries like Norway and Finland. This colour can be found in fruit liqueurs, breakfast cereals, cookies, cookies, marzipan, liqueurs, and even in cosmetics and medicines.

It has been noticed that E110 may aggravate the symptoms of asthma. Children may experience hyperactivity and concentration disorders. Colour 110 can also cause some allergic reactions like rashes and hay fever. Some people complain of abdominal pain after eating products with sunset yellow FCF. It is believed that it may contribute to the deterioration of the skin and pimples.

It is suspected that this E110 food additive may be carcinogenic, but at the moment there are no studies clearly confirming it.

E122 – Azorubine

This food additive is a synthetic colour added to cakes, jelly, jams, candies, or wine and other drinks. It is a contributing factor in the development of tumours in animals, however the carcinogenic effects of azorubine on humans have not been observed. Azorubine is harmful to people suffering from asthma and those who are allergic to aspirin.

11 cupcakes

E123 – Amaranth

This is a red-blue food colouring also used to colour fabrics, leathers, and paper. In some countries, like the United States, Norway, Austria, and Russia, E123 is banned due to its carcinogenic effects. It has a dark red colour and good resistance to high temperature and light. E123 amaranth is currently used to colour some foods like caviar and low-alcoholic drinks, as well as beauty products such as lipsticks.

E124 – Ponceau 4R

This additive can also be listed under other names like Cochineal Red A, C.I. Acid Red 18, Brilliant Scarlet 3R, Brilliant Scarlet 4R or New Coccine. E124 is widely used in the food industry, found in many sweets like cakes, powdered jelly, jams, ice cream, red-coloured drinks, dessert coatings, marmalades, and sometimes even poor-quality wine or tomato soup.

This synthetic colour is also used in the pharmaceutical industry – it is often used to colour the coating on tablets. The cosmetics industry also reaches for colour 124 – it is an ingredient of some lipsticks, blushes, and eye shadows.

It is currently believed that colour 124 is neutral to health in small amounts. At the same time, it should be avoided as it contributes to the development of allergies (hay fever and asthma) and is even said to be carcinogenic. Regular consumption of products containing this colour can lead to fertility problems. It also has a negative impact on the condition of the liver and kidneys. E124 may have a negative effect on activity and concentration in children, and its use is prohibited in the United States and United Kingdom.

E127 – Erythrosine

This food colour is most often added to condensed fruits used to make desserts. It is also used in the production of powdered cakes. Consuming too much erythrosine causes side effects such as hyperactivity, impaired fertility, and damage to the thyroid gland, liver, and heart.

E129 – Allura red AC

This is a food colour which decomposes into carcinogenic amine compounds during the digestion process. Some studies also show a possible correlation between high intake of this additive and increased hyperactivity and concentration disorders in children. This is important information, as colour 129 is often found in sweets, sweetened drinks, breakfast cereals – so the favourite delicacies of kids. We should not be giving products with colour 129 to children, and we should base our family’s daily diet on unprocessed products without artificial colours.

E132 – Indigotin

This is a dark blue colour, added to bottled soft drinks, sweets, ice cream, biscuits, and all kinds of confectionery. It is also used in medicine as a chemical reagent. This colour should be avoided as it is potentially carcinogenic.

icecreams additives

E133 – Brilliant blue FCF

This is a blue synthetic colouring found in many popular foods. You can find E133 in soft drinks, chewing gum, gelatin, canned peas, cereals, desserts, cake, creams, and even in some dairy products. Colour 133 is also used in cosmetics like toothpaste and hair dyes.

Colour E133 is harmful to the body. It can cause asthma, hay fever, and other allergic reactions. Additionally, it is a threat to people with irritable bowel syndrome as it irritates the stomach and is deposited in the liver.

E142 – Food green S

E142 is used in the production of sweets, creams, ice cream, powdered cheesecakes, and mint sauce. It gives an intense green colour to food products like pickled peas, and is also found in marmalades and jellies. In medicine, colour 142 is used in preparations for disinfecting wounds. It is also part of the textile industry as E142 works well for dying fabrics.

Unfortunately, high amounts of E142 food colour can cause side effects. The most common are allergic reactions (e.g. skin allergies), asthma, hyperactivity, insomnia, and anaemia. Due to the potential harmfulness of E142, its use in the food industry is prohibited in countries like the United States, Japan, and Canada.

E151 – Brilliant black BN

This synthetic black food colouring is used as an addition to sauces, blackcurrant jams, or caviar. This additive can be harmful. Colour 151 can cause problems with kidney function and can be converted into harmful substances in the intestines. This is why it’s banned in the United States, Canada, Finland, Norway, and Japan.

E155 – Brown HT

Also called chocolate brown HT, this is used mainly in chocolate cakes, but also in milk, cheese, jams, fruit products, and fish.
E155 can cause some allergic reactions like asthma or skin irritation. It is recommended to be eliminated from the diet of children. Colour 155 is banned in some countries like Austria, Belgium, Germany, Norway, and Sweden.

Preservatives (E200-E299)

Preservatives are used in the production of food in order to extend its shelf life. They also prevent adverse organoleptic changes (colour, taste, smell, and texture).
Here are some of the preservatives you should be aware of as they can be harmful for health. They can be divided into 5 groups.

Sorbates (E200-E203)

Sorbates can be found in many products like cheeses, bread, bakery products, yoghurts, some drinks (fruit juices, cordials, wine) and margarines, spreads, and dips. Sorbates can occur naturally, however food producers make sorbates synthetically. They can cause asthma, eczema, eye irritation, and burning mouth syndrome.

E200 – Sorbic Acid

This has moldicide, bactericidal, and fungicidal properties, so it is used as a preservative in food products and cosmetics. When added to food, preservative 200 is most often used together with sodium benzoate 211 as their actions complement one another. E200 is also effective against some bacteria like Salmonella, Clostridium, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas and Sarcina.
Preservative 200 can be found in salad dressings, soup concentrates, frozen cakes and pizza, fermented milk drinks, sweets, cake fillings, jams, non-alcoholic drinks, and wine. Sorbic acid is safe for health, but hypersensitive people can experience some allergic reactions.

E202 – Potassium Sorbate

This is used to preserve food products such as cheese, margarine, wine, dried and smoked yoghurts, cider, drinks, and baked goods, in which it inhibits the growth of yeast and mould. It is also added to many dried fruits. In wine production, potassium sorbate is used to prevent the so-called “wild fermentation” after the wine has been bottled. Most often, potassium sorbate is used in sweet, sparkling, and strong cider wines, but also in table wines.
Preservative 202 is considered to be one of the safest agents added to food. The acceptable daily dose is 25 mg/kg body weight. Compared to other preservatives, this is a relatively large amount, which indicates the safety of this substance. However, due to the fact that E202 does not have bactericidal properties, manufacturers often combine it with sodium benzoate, which is not so indifferent to our body.

Benzoates (E210 – 218)

Benzoates are the food additives that help to prolong the shelf life of products. They slow down the growth of bacteria and yeast.
They can be found in juices, ice cream toppings, tomato sauce, milkshake syrups, and soft drinks. They are considered as safe food additives, however, they can cause some allergic reactions.

soft drinks additives

E210 – Benzoic Acid

This is one of the most popularly used preservatives. It is found in most fruits (especially blueberries and cranberries), mushrooms, spices (such as cinnamon, anise, cloves), ready-made salads, jellies, sweets, juices, and even meat and fish products. An overdose is manifested by abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea, as well as problems with the digestive and respiratory systems.

E211 – Sodium Benzoate

This preservative is commonly used in the food industry. It dominates the production of sweet carbonated and non-carbonated drinks. Because of its properties, preservative 211 is also used to preserve food products with an acidic pH, such as fruit pulp and purees, jams, pickles, pickled herring and mackerel, margarine, olives, beer, fruit yoghurts, canned vegetables, and salads.

E214 – Ethyl Benzoate

This is a synthetic preservative that is mainly used to protect against yeast. If used in excess, it can cause allergic reactions and can also contribute to the development of cancer! Ethyl benzoate is mainly found in meats, fish, meat and fish spreads, prawns, pickles, and sauces.

Sulphites (E 220-E228)

We can find sulphites in wines and dried fruits, as well as sausages, juices, and fruit toppings. Sulfur dioxide is a commonly used preservative and antioxidant that prevents microbial spoilage of food and protects it from darkening. For sulphites, the standard of acceptable daily consumption has been established. Most people experience no side effects from consuming sulfites, however they can be very dangerous for hypersensitive people and asthmatics.

E220 – Sulfur Dioxide

This can cause problems with the respiratory system (cough, shortness of breath, throat irritation, or bronchitis), digestive system problems (abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting), as well as skin problems. It is found in fruit juices, dried fruit, marmalade, jams, jellies, frozen foods, wine, and beer.

E223 – Sodium metabisulphite

E223 is mainly used for the production of wine, beer, ciders, and white vegetable preserves, e.g. horseradish. It is also found in jams, bread and, for example, in pulp, tomato puree for further processing, apple crisps and chips, frozen mushrooms, confectionery products. Sodium metabisulfite is also used in the processing of flour, especially flour with a low gluten content.
Preservative 223 is a food additive that can be irritating with direct contact, but the amount used in the food industry is small and does not cause such an effect.

In people with allergies, E223 may be sensitising and cause allergic reactions. People sensitive to this substance may experience shortness of breath, skin allergic reactions, or intensification of atopic dermatitis.

Nitrites (E249-E252)

Nitrites are mainly found in processed meats, where they are used as a preservative against botulism. Nitrogen compounds can also be found in drinking water. Excessive amounts of these preservatives in food is dangerous to health and can cause, among others, cyanosis, anemia, intestinal dysfunction, and cancer.

E249 – Potassium Nitrite III

This is a frequently used preservative that often contributes to headaches and dizziness, problems with concentration and memory, allergic problems, and asthma. E249 is considered a carcinogenic preservative that can contribute to the development of cancer. It can be found in fish products, cured meat, smoked meats, and pickles.

Propionates (E280 – E283)

Propionates are widely used as a preservative and anti-mould additive in bread and pastry products. It is also a component of artificial flavour enhancers and used in animal feed.

bread additives

E282 – Calcium Propionate

This is used in the production of sliced packaged bread, rye bread, reduced calorie bread, partially baked and packaged: bread, rolls and pitta bread, packaged confectionery, and pastry products. Preservative 282 can cause dizziness, headaches, and migraines. It can also cause asthma in sensitive individuals, as well as learning difficulties, behavioural problems, and stomach and skin irritation.

Flavour enhancers

The flavour of food strongly influences a consumer’s decisions about everyday shopping. Aromatic meats, sweets, and snacks are usually associated with a very pleasant smell, which makes eating them even more enjoyable. The food we choose every day wouldn’t be as attractive to us if it didn’t have the right flavours.

Flavour enhancers are widely used in food production. One place they are used is in baked products like bread, sweet pastries, and cookies. When we buy these baked goods, an intense, pleasant, and natural aroma is important. Another group of food products that uses flavour enhancers is ice cream, which needs to have an appetising smell and taste. Aromas are also a very important component of meats and processed meat products.

Generally, flavour enhancers do not have a negative impact on our health. However, when eaten in high doses, they can be linked with food intolerance symptoms.

E621 Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

This is a substance that enhances the flavour of any given food product. Currently, MSG is obtained synthetically. It is most often used as a food additive to improve flavour. Preservative 621 contains several times less sodium than sodium chloride, i.e. table salt.

MSG gives food its characteristic flavour, known as “umami”. Naturally, monosodium glutamate is present in a protein-bound form – in meat, fish, grain products, and vegetables, and in its free form – in milk, potatoes, tomatoes, cheese, and soy sauce.
Monosodium glutamate brings out the original flavour of a dish and makes it more appetising. It is mostly found in processed products. You can usually find preservative 621 in instant noodle soups and sauces, ready-made meals in jars, fish sauces, and ready-made spice mixes.

How to avoid eating too many food additives?

It isn’t easy to follow a diet without any food additives. It seems like most products found on supermarket shelves contain them. The best way to avoid eating too many additives is to cook at home as much as possible, and use organic, natural products. You can also follow some guidelines to help you live a healthy, chemical-free life.

Check our tips on how to limit food additives in your daily diet:

Buy seasonal vegetables and fruits

Get your produce locally and from reliable suppliers. The best choice would be buying your fruit and veg from organic farmers or farmer’s markets. Those beautiful looking fruits in the supermarket are often waxed, which not only gives them an attractive appearance but also extends their storage time. At the same time, the wax layer that covers fruits may contain chemical pesticides known to be harmful.

Always read the labels

Manufacturers are required to provide information about the composition of a product on the label. Even products that are considered to be healthy may contain potentially harmful substances in their composition. Remember that food additives have many names, which is why it’s very important to be well informed about all the food ingredients.

=> Find out more about how to read food labels <=

Buy low-processed products

The more processed the product, the greater the chance that it will contain various types of food additives like flavour enhancers, preservatives, and aromas.

Avoid coloured drinks and flavoured waters

Choose natural juices, preferably freshly squeezed.. The best way is to drink mostly water. Don’t buy “light” products. Most dietary ‘light’ products contain aspartame. In addition, the sweeteners used in them disturb the intensity of the sweet taste.

Prepare meals at home

This way you will be sure that what you eat is free of artificial additives. You can create your favourite flavours by adding natural spices. Don’t be influenced by appearance. Many food additives are intended to improve the aesthetic value of the product. Tasty and healthy food isn’t always the prettiest.

Say “no” to certain products

Not only do they have no nutritional value for the body, but they also contain substances that are harmful to our health. These include: chips, chewing gums, coloured drinks, cola drinks, and all types of fast food, instant products, etc. Yes, they are tasty and addictive, but they can also be very bad for us. Find out more about how junk food can influence your health here.

Look for a healthier alternative to your product

If something cannot be produced without the addition of chemicals, it’s not worth eating. For example, the jelly beans that children love so much can be sweetened and coloured with fruit juices. Visit stores with organic and natural products. There might be something out there for your children that isn’t full of synthetic food additives.

Avoid products with an unnaturally long shelf life

Dry products such as flour can be stored for a very long time under appropriate conditions, while products such as cold cuts, milk products, fruit mousses have a limited shelf life, or at least they should have. If they can stay on the shelf for months, this means there is something unnatural added to them.

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  1. 5 stars
    This sure is a long list of additives, which makes me think of switching to organic. Is it possible for you give us a list of stores that offers authentic organic products?

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