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E951, E621, E133 - The Harmful Chemicals In Your Food and How to Avoid Them

Posted by Carmen Chu on

Have you looked at the back of a product before and was just floored by the number of unpronounceable chemical sounding ingredients?!

Many of them begin with the letter E, and these “Enumbers” are commonly seen on many food labels that mean different types of additives.


Ingredients from the Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Icing
Source: Foodbabe


As you can see from the ingredients list above, the way the U.S and UK display the ingredients in their food is quite different.  The UK will use the chemical codes that begin with the E while American companies will use the full scientific names instead.  However, because many of our products in Hong Kong are imported from the UK, it's important to know what they are and how they can affect your health.


In this post, we will explore which ENumbers can be toxic for your body, how to avoid them, and what to choose instead!


Let’s first explain what an ENumber is…

E stands for Europe and are numbers established in the European Union to classify the additives into different categories. In other parts of the world, the full name of the additive is used instead.  Example: E211 in Europe is Sodium Benzoate in America.


The categories of additives are separated as the following:

  • Colours
  • Flavouring agents
  • Preservatives
  • Anti-oxidants
  • Sweeteners
  • Gelling agents
  • Emulsifiers


The Categories of E-Numbers


Source: The Conversation


But are all ENumbers Bad For You?

Actually, don’t be too frightened if you see some on your food label as not all of them are bad.  Some have just been tested in the EU, which requires them to have an easily identifiable code that can be easily pulled up in the system.


For instance, Vitamin C (E300), Oxygen (E948) and Paprika (E160c).  And even for the more chemical-ly sounding ingredients, most are actually safe in small amounts and actually can be quite helpful to removing toxins.  However, the main concern is not really how much you are consuming but what the long-term effects are if you eat them for a prolonged period of time.


Most of the ingredients do not go through a lengthy testing process before being released so the severity of the long term health effects are quite unknown… and that’s where the danger lies!


ENumbers to Avoid… Which are the Dangerous Ones?


E211: Sodium Benzoate

  • Used as a preservative
  • Found in margarine, soy sauce, soda, sweets, dressings, etc.
  • Side effects: Hyperactivity in children and can cause allergic reactions like asthma


E951: Aspartame

  • Artificial sweetener commonly used as a sweetener
  • Used in may diabetic-friendly products like low-fat foods, low sugar drinks, snacks and sweets
  • Side effects: Can cause headaches, weight gain, and ADHD


E621: Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

  • Is a flavour enhancer that’s used to give food that extra flavour to make them taste better
  • Side effects: Can cause many problems for people that are sensitive such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, muscle pain, palpitations, and pain


E133: Brilliant Blue FCF

  • A synthetic blue colouring dye that adds a blue colour to foods
  • Side effects: Can disrupt cell metabolism and allergic reactions (banned in countries such as Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Germany and Norway)


E213: Calcium Benzoate

  • A form of preservative that’s used to extend the shelf life of foods and drinks=
  • Often found in low sugar products
  • Side effects: Asthma, aspirin sensitivity, or can worsen people who suffer from allergies

So How Can we Avoid ENumbered foods?


Because it’s just so common to find these type of ingredients in our foods, it’s quite hard to completely avoid, especially when eating out.  However, if you are cooking or buying snacks for you and your family to eat, make sure to check the nutrition label at the back to look at the ingredients.  It is generally safer if you choose organic or health food stores to do your shopping!


In Hong Kong, if they were imported from the EU, then you will most likely see the Enumbers but elsewhere, the package will include the long scientific name of the ingredient.  Opt for whole food products with ingredients that are pronounceable real foods that you have seen before. It’s also better to just stick with the original/natural/pure kind as the flavouring used to make the different tastes is where the danger of the additives lie.     


Fear not, at Foodcraft, we don’t use preservatives or additives in any of our products.  We use himalayan sea salt and good quality oils to extend the shelf life for things like sauerkraut, hummus, pesto, and other pickled vegetables.  You don’t have to worry when purchasing our foods, we promise!


If you have any concerns or questions about any of the items we sell, please do not hesitate to contact us and ask.  We’d be glad to assist you!


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