Food Additives - Know your numbers.

Before filling your next shopping trolley with your favourite packaged food, try to check the ingredients list first. You may find some familiar sounding names there, such as sunflower oil, wholemeal flour, brown sugar etc., but you may also come across some chemical sounding names or numbers. Unfortunately, many of our favourite foods these days contain a long list of additives. It doesn't mean that they are all bad for us of course. However, they are usually an indicator that such foods might be just over - processed.

So how can we make sense of all the numbers and be able to make better choices while buying processed food? The easiest way is to be familiar with the food additives that are best avoided. The most common food additives include: colours (both natural and artificial), flavour enhancers, preservatives, acidity regulators, emulsifiers, thickeners, sweeteners, enzymes, stabilisers and anticaking, glazing and raising agents. Below is a list of the food additives that are most likely to cause symptoms and might be potentially hazardous if consumed on regular basis, therefore they are best avoided.


· Sorbates; 200-203 (mainly in juices, cheese spreads and dips),

· Benzoates; 210-218(mainly found in cordials, fruit drinks and juices),

· Sulphites; 220-228 (mainly in wine, pickled onions and dried fruit),

· Nitrates, Nitrites; 249-252 (mainly in cured meats, bacon, ham and salami),

· Propionates; 280-283 (bakery products and pharmaceuticals),

· Antioxidants; 310-312, 319-321 (mainly in dips, table spreads, salad dressings and mayonnaise).

Colours: 102, 104, 110, 122 - 129, 132, 133, 142, 143, 150 (b,c,d), 151, 155 and 160b (annatto).

Sweeteners: 951 (aspartame), 952 (cyclamate), 954 (saccharin), 955 (sucralose), 962 (aspartame - acesulphame salt) - mostly found in sauces and toppings, jams, soft drinks, confectionery, tabletop sweeteners, soup bases, chewing gum and pharmaceutical.

Other additives best to avoid: Glutamates; 621-635 (flavor enhancer) – mainly found in soups, pasta sauces, Asian sauces, curry pastes, and savory snacks. And also carrageenan (407) - found in thickened creams, ice creams, flavoured milks, nut milks, and some desserts.

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