Decoding Food Labels: Unraveling the Mystery of Chemicals and E Numbers

When you pick up a food product from a supermarket shelf, you might notice a long list of ingredients on the label, many of which are hard to pronounce, let alone understand. These are often chemicals and E numbers, which can be confusing and even alarming for many consumers. However, understanding these labels is crucial for making informed food choices. This article aims to decode the mystery of chemicals and E numbers on food labels, helping you to understand what you’re really eating.

What are Chemicals and E Numbers?

Chemicals in food are usually additives that serve various purposes, such as preserving food, enhancing its flavor, or improving its appearance. E numbers, on the other hand, are codes for substances that are permitted to be used as food additives within the European Union and EFTA. The “E” stands for “Europe”.

Are Chemicals and E Numbers Bad for Health?

Not all chemicals and E numbers are harmful. Many are naturally occurring substances. For instance, vitamin C, which is beneficial for health, is also a chemical known as ascorbic acid. However, some food additives have been linked to health issues like allergies, asthma, and hyperactivity. Therefore, it’s important to know which ones to avoid.

Chemicals and E Numbers to Watch Out For

  • E621: Also known as monosodium glutamate (MSG), it is used as a flavor enhancer and can cause headaches and nausea in some people.
  • E951: Known as aspartame, this artificial sweetener is found in diet drinks and sugar-free products. Some studies suggest it might be linked to cancer, but more research is needed.
  • E133: This blue food dye has been linked to hyperactivity in children.

How to Understand Food Labels Better

Here are some tips to help you decipher food labels:

  1. Ingredients are listed in order of weight, so the first few ingredients make up the bulk of the product.
  2. If you see a chemical or E number you don’t recognize, look it up. There are many online resources available.
  3. Remember that not all E numbers are bad. Many represent harmless substances like vitamins and minerals.

In conclusion, understanding food labels can seem daunting, but with a little knowledge and research, you can make healthier and more informed food choices. Remember, if in doubt, it’s always a good idea to opt for whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible.