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Food additives

Foods contain additives for a variety of reasons – to prevent food poisoning, to stop foods from going off, to provide colour, flavour or texture. Some food additives are natural substances, others are synthetic. Any additives put into food must, by law, be shown on the label. Many are shown by the European Community ‘E number’.

Additives with E numbers have been tested and passed as safe for use in EU countries. Numbers without an E in front are allowed in the UK, but not in all EU countries.

A few people suffer from allergic reactions to some additives, but many more people are allergic to ordinary foods such as milk or soya. A diet which is high in processed foods is not only more likely to contain additives, but will probably be higher in salt, sugar and fat than is desirable for adults and children. Replacing these foods with more fruits and vegetables and starchy foods is good advice.


We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.