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E Numbers Hysteria

You really do have to hand it to our MPs and Lords: knowing arses from elbows is clearly an advanced manouvre for them.

All artificial colourings in food and soft drinks should be banned, a parliamentary committee urged yesterday in a report on the effect of diet on the brain.

The associate parliamentary food and health forum – a grouping of parliamentarians and outside experts such as nutritionists, doctors and the food industry – says at the end of a year-long inquiry that the Food Standards Agency should be taking a tougher line on E-numbers and additives, which some studies suggest may over-stimulate children\’s brains and make them hyperactive.

Now, it might be true that some of these chemicals are not quite what we want to feed into a growing brain. I would put the onus on parents to make this decision, but I\’m aware that there are those who might disagree. But that isn\’t my point here, rather, it\’s the insanity of their actual proposal.

For E numbers are not in fact some creation of the devil\’s spawn. It\’s simply a labelling system. There are certain things which are put into food and so that everyone knows what they can and cannot use when and where a single labelling system was drawn up for all in the EU. Not even I am against clarity through such cooperation (I might whine about the use of criminal law etc, but having information presented clearly is just fine by me).

Some E numbers do describe things made in the lab: others do not.

E140 Chlorophylls, Chlorophyllins:

Green colour occurs naturally in the cells of all plants and responsible for photosynthesis. A fairly unstable dye, which tends to fade easily (see E141). Not easy to obtain in a pure form and commercially available chloroyphyll usually contains other plant material impurities. The usual sources are nettles, spinach and grass with the chloroyphyll being extracted using acetone, ethanol, light petroleum, methylethylketone and diachloromethane. Lutein, E161b, may be extracted at the same time. Can be used for dyeing waxes and oils, used in medicines and cosmetics eg in chewing gum, fats and oils, ice cream, soaps, soups, sweets and, obviously, green vegetables. Has no maximum recommended daily intake and is not subject to any prohibitions.

We\’re going to ban the use of chlorophyll in food now, are we? Bye bye to all green vegetables then.

E160a Alpha-carotene, Beta-carotene, Gamma-carotene

Orange or yellow plant pigments, found mainly in carrots, green leafed vegetables and tomatoes, which the human body converts into \’Vitamin A\’ in the liver. Fades on exposure to light. Can be commercially manufactured in the laboratory but beta-carotene, with some alpha-carotene and gamma-carotene present, is normally extracted from carrots and other yellow or orange fruits and vegetables with hexane. Used in butter and soft margarines, coffee sponge cakes, milk products and soft drinks.

This is to go too? This is what is the stupidity: they\’ve confused the labelling system, the E numbers, with things that might do harm. But E numbers are simply a labelling scheme, nothing else. A blanket ban on the use of things with E numbers is insane.

E101 & E101a Riboflavin

Riboflavin is yellow or orange-yellow in colour and in addition to being used as a food colouring it is also used to fortify some foods. It can be found in such foods as baby foods, breakfast cereals, sauces, processed cheese, fruit drinks and vitamin-enriched milk products as well as being widely used in vitamin supplements. Also known as vitamin B2 occurs naturally in milk, cheese, leafy green vegetables, liver and yeast but exposure to light will destroy the Riboflavin in these natural sources. In processed foods it is very likely to be Genetically Modified as it can be produced synthetically using genetically modified Bacillus subtilis, altered to both increase the bacteria production of riboflavin and to introduce an antibiotic (ampicillin) resistance marker. It is an easily absorbed, water-soluble micronutrient with a key role in maintaining human health. Like the other B vitamins, it supports energy production by aiding in the metabolising of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Vitamin B2 is also required for red blood cell formation and respiration, antibody production, and for regulating human growth and reproduction. It is essential for healthy skin, nails, hair growth and general good health, including regulating thyroid activity. Any excess is excreted in the urine but as the human body does not store Riboflavin it is thought deficiency is common. Riboflavin also helps in the prevention or treatment of many types of eye disorders, including some cases of cataracts. It may assist bloodshot, itching or burning eyes and abnormal sensitivity to light.

Cretins, simply cretins.

E150 Caramel


Can we hang them all?

(Looking at the actual report, they took evidence on tartrazine alone and then decided that all artificial colourings should be banned. Swing bastards, swing.)

11 thoughts on “E Numbers Hysteria”

  1. Years ago there was a dinner party discussion reported in the Ariadne section of New Scientist that went something like this (IIRC):

    A: We should ban “E-numbers” … evil toxic additives … &c. &c.
    B: Actually “E-numbers” are just an European system for labeling foods, and many of them are perfectly natural and harmless.
    A: What rubbish! Next you’ll be telling me that radiation’s natural!

  2. I doubt very much that our government in Brussels will be having any of this – heck let them try to ban this; it can only lead to the veil being lifted on who holds the true power in this country.

  3. Why don’t we get those scientists to see if these chemicals are harmful first before banning them? Even the evidence against tartrazine looks very weak.

  4. E numbers were originally introduced to re-assure consumers!

    Many food colouring and flavour additives are “nature identical’ i.e. produced to exactly the same chemical composition as the ‘natural form’. Would these people ban things according to how they are produced (as opposed to what they are)?

  5. HJ:

    Is that H. J. Van Winkle? That’s (what you said)
    exactly what many of ’em are after. In the main, anything man-made is “unnatural,” and therefore evil.

  6. (Incidentally, several of the colourants in that list are suffixed ‘FCF’. That means ‘for colouring food’, and Brown FK is ‘for kippers’.)

  7. “E290: carbon dioxide”

    Hey, we could ban that and meet our Kyoto commitments in one go! Talk about a win-win..

  8. Thanks for this, Tim. I can honestly say I had no idea what E numbers were. I know what the chemicals they code for are but didn’t know they coded for them. Quite what I thought they were, I’m not sure. I’d never given the issue much thought. Time for a change I think.

  9. I expect they mean synthetic E numbers and mostly colours. My children do not even get a look see at Sunny Delight and other bl;atant chemistry sets. With only 5% or so of actual fruit juice this is a disgusting product.

    Other E numbers are their for safety such as in cured products with an extended shelf life.

    I object to water being added to food and also to reformed meat and fish products masquerading as the real thing with weasel words of excuse being allowed.

    It will never be sorted out while the likes of Lord Sainsbury are roped in as government ministers.

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