E-nummers koffie sulfietovergevoeligheid PKU additieven kunstmatig natuurlijk
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What are E-numbers?

Team Cupplement
Team Cupplement

E-numbers have been discussed more and more in the media in recent years. You may have heard of them and you may even try to avoid them in your diet. But is that really necessary? What exactly are E numbers and what are they good or bad for? We explain it all to you in this blog.

What are E numbers?

E numbers are additives that are added to foods. They improve or maintain certain properties of these foods, for example appearance, quality, and shelf life. E-numbers can have a artificial, or a natural origin. For example, a tomato already contains about 10 to 15 E numbers, including vitamin C (E330) and lactic acid (E270). Other examples of natural E numbers are oxygen (E948) and glutamine (E620), a substance that occurs naturally in your muscles.

The 6 most famous E-numbers 1:

  • E951 Aspartame (sweetener)
  • E621 Monosodium glutamate (flavor enhancer)
  • E220-E228 Sulfite (natural preservative)
  • E965 Maltitol (synthetic sweetener)
  • E120 Carmine/cochineal (red dye)
  • E960 Stevia/Steviol glycosides (natural sweetener)

Are E numbers harmful?

E-numbers are carefully examined before they are approved. To check whether E numbers can be used safely, they are assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The law even states in which products an E number may be used and what maximum amount may be added to that product. When testing, careful attention is paid to the possible harmfulness of E numbers. An amount for intake that does not cause any side effects has been determined for each E-number. This value is divided by 100 to ensure that you will never ingest this maximum amount. The final value that remains is known as the acceptable daily intake (ADI). In other words, the ADI is the maximum amount of a substance that you can ingest daily without experiencing negative effects on your health. No more than the ADI of an E number is ever added to products.

There are many stories circulating that warn people about E numbers. These stories claim that E numbers are harmful for your health. As a result, more and more people prefer to avoid products containing E numbers. But these stories are often based on inaccurate research and wrong conclusions.


As explained above, E numbers are completely safe and cannot be harmful to our health. However, there are 2 exceptions to this rule. One of these exceptions are people with the metabolic disease phenylketonuria (PKU). People with this disease cannot break down aspartame (E951) properly. This substance can therefore accumulate in the body, which can then cause damage to the brain.

People who suffer from (chronic) sulfite hypersensitivity also form an exception group and should therefore avoid certain E numbers. With a high dosage of sulfites (E220 to E228 in the E-numbers list), they may suffer from complaints such as palpitations, skin rashes or fluid retention. According to the Nutrition center2 this disease mainly occurs in people with asthma and only 4% of them are actually in a risk group sitting.

To conclude, you don't have to worry about consuming E numbers if you don't belong to one of these groups.

E numbers in coffee

Even in coffee E-numbers can be present. For example, glazing agent can be present in products. Glazing agent is an E number category. This glazing agent can form a shiny or covering layer on certain products such as fruit peel, chocolate or coffee beans. In addition, Annatto (E160b) is often found in coffee creamer, this substance is also found in certain butters and cheeses.

Sources in this article:

  1. https://www.consumentenbond.nl/gezond-eten/bekendste-e-nummers
  2. https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/encyclopedie/sulfietallergie.aspx#:~:text=Sulfieten%20(E%2Dnummers%20E220%20t,om%20hartkloppingen%2C%20huiduitslag%20of%20vochtophoping