Food Additives in EU and E-Numbers
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Food Additives in the European Union

In late 1988 the Community adopted a framework directive which set out the criteria by which additives would be assessed and provided for the adoption of more specific technical directives establishing the list of additives which could be used, the foods in which they could be used and any maximum levels. The Directive is:

  • Council Directive of 21 December 1988 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States concerning food additives authorised for use in foodstuffs intended for human consumption (89/107/EEC).

This Directive requires that all permitted food additives are assessed by the European Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) for their safety against the criteria which are stated in the Annex to the Directive.

The specific Directives were eventually adopted. 3 Directives now provide the requirements for additive legislation within the whole of the European Community. They are:

  • Sweeteners: European Parliament and Council Directive (94/35/EC) of 30 June 1994 on sweeteners for use in foodstuffs (OJ L237, 10.09.1994, page 3)
  • Colours: European Parliament and Council Directive (94/36/EC)of 30 June 1994 on colours for use in foodstuffs (OJ L237, 10.09.1994, page 13)
  • Food additives other than colours and sweeteners: European Parliament and Council Directive (95/2/EC) of 20 February 1995 on food additives other than colours and sweeteners (OJ L61, 18.03.1995, page 1)

The framework Directive was amended in 1994 by:

  • European Parliament and Council Directive of 30 June 1994 amending Directive 89/107/EEC on the approximation of the laws of Member States concerning food additives authorised for use in foodstuffs intended for human consumption (94/34/EC)

The amendment provided that countries can nominate certain foods which have traditional characteristics and which, in the territory of the Member State, have not been permitted to contain certain additives. If it is subsequently agreed, the Member States concerned can continue to restrict the use of additives in these foods within their territory. This has resulted in the adoption of a Decision providing approved national derogations:

  • Decision No 292/97/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 December 1996 on the maintenance of national laws prohibiting the use of certain additives in the production of certain specific foodstuffs (OJ L48, 19.02.1997, p.3)

In addition, there are amending directives which have amended 2 of the 3 specific Directives. These are:

  • Directive 96/83/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 December 1996 amending Directive 94/35/EC on sweeteners for use in foodstuffs (OJ L48, 19.02.1997, page 4)
  • Directive 96/85/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 December 1996 amending Directive 95/2/EC on food additives other than colours and sweeteners (OJ L86, 28.03.1997, page 1)
  • Directive 98/72/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 October 1998 amending Directive 95/2/EC on food additives other than colours and sweeteners (OJ L295, 4.11.1998, page 18)

Work has progressed on defining specific purity criteria for the additives. These are adopted by additional Directives:

  • Commission Directive 95/31/EC of 5 July 1995 laying down specific criteria of purity concerning sweeteners for use in foodstuffs (OJ L178, 28.07.1995, page 1)
  • Commission Directive 95/45/EC of 26 July 1995 laying down specific purity criteria concerning colours for use in foodstuffs (OJ L226, 22.09.1995, page 1)

The following amendments have also been adopted:

  • Commission Directive 98/66/EC of 4 September 1998 amending Directive 95/31/EC laying down specific criteria of purity concerning sweeteners for use in foodstuffs (OJ L257, 19.09.1998, page 35)
  • Commission Directive 98/86/EC of 11 November 1998 amending Commission Directive 96/77/EC laying down specific purity criteria on food additives other than colours and sweeteners (OJ L334, 9.12.1998, page 1)


The list below gives the "E number" and the name of those additives listed in the 3 specific directives. The Directives or the implementing legislation in the Member States should be consulted for actual details.

The numbering system is being adapted for international use by the Codex Alimentarius Commission who are developing an International Numbering System (INS). This will largely use the same numbers (but without the E).

E Number List

E1400 Dextrin

E1401 Modified starch (Acid treated starch)

E1402 Alkaline modified starch

E1403 Bleached starch

E1404 Oxidized starch

E1410 Monostarch phosphate

E1412 Distarch phosphate

E1413 Phosphated distarch phosphate

E1414 Acetylated distarch phosphate

E1420 Acetylated starch, mono starch acetate

E1421 Acetylated starch, mono starch acetate

E1422 Acetylated distarch adipate

E1430 Di starch glycerine

E1440 Hydroxy propyl starch

E1441 Hydroxy propyl distarch glycerine

E1442 Hydroxy propyl distarch phosphate

E1450 Starch sodium octenyl succinate

E1451 Acetylated oxidised starch (Note - this additive was added in October 1998 by Directive 98/72)