The Classification Of Food Additives

Food additives, a topic that often stirs up a whirlwind of debates, are essential components in our food supply. They play a crucial role in maintaining food quality, enhancing nutritional value, and improving food taste and appearance. Understanding what these additives are, their categories, and their functions can help us make informed choices about the food we consume.

The Role of Food Additives

Food additives are substances added to food to perform specific technological functions. These functions range from preserving the quality and safety of food, enhancing taste and appearance, to improving nutritional value. Their use is strictly regulated by food safety authorities to ensure that they pose no risk to consumers' health.

Categories of Food Additives

Food additives are classified into 26 categories, each serving a unique purpose. Here's a glimpse into some of the key categories:

  1. Dyes: These are substances that impart color to a food product or restore its original color. They can originate from natural food components or other natural elements.

  2. Preservatives: These substances extend the shelf life of food by protecting them from deterioration caused by microorganisms.

  3. Antioxidants: These substances protect food from deterioration caused by oxidation, such as rancidity of fats and color variations.

  4. Acidity Regulators: These substances control or modify the acidity or alkalinity of a food product.

  5. Sweeteners: These substances are used to impart a sweet flavor to foods.

  6. Emulsifiers: These substances facilitate the formation or maintenance of a homogeneous mixture of two immiscible substances, such as oil and water, in a food product.

  7. Flavor Enhancers: These substances enhance the existing flavor and/or fragrance of a food product.

  8. Gelling Agents: These substances give consistency to a food product through the formation of a gel.

  9. Modified Starches: These substances are obtained through one or more chemical treatments of food starches, which may have undergone a physical or enzymatic treatment.

  10. Packaging Gases: These are gases, different from air, which are introduced into the container before, during, or after introducing a food item into the packaging.

Numbering of Food Additives

Food additives are also classified and numbered for easy identification. Here are some examples:

  • Dyes are numbered from E100-199, with different ranges representing different colors like yellow (E100-109), orange (E110-119), red (E120-129), and so on.
  • Preservatives are classified from E200-299, with different ranges representing different types of preservatives such as sorbates (E200-209), benzoates (E210-219), sulfites (E220-229), and so on.
  • Antioxidants and Acidity Regulators are numbered from E300-399. For instance, ascorbates (vitamin C) fall under E300-309, gallates, and erythorbates under E310-319, lactates under E320-329, and so on.
  • Thickeners, Stabilizers, and Emulsifiers are numbered between 400 and 499. For instance, alginates fall under E400-409, natural gums under E410-419, sorbitol and other related compounds under E420-429, and so on.
  • Acidity Regulators, Anti-caking Agents, and Mineral Salts are numbered from E500-599. This includes bases like Sodium Bicarbonate (E500) used in baking, chlorides like Sodium Chloride (E510) for seasoning, and phosphates like Dicalcium Phosphate (E341) as a leavening agent, among others.
  • Flavor Enhancers are classified from E600-699. For example, glutamates fall under E620-629, inosinates fall under E630-639, and so on.
  • Various additives fall under E900-999. For instance, waxes fall under E900-909, icings under E910-919, auxiliary agents under E920-929, and so on.

You may have noticed that numbers between 700 and 899 are missing in the previous list, that's because there are no commonly recognized categories that fall under E700-899 range in the standard food additive numbering system.


Food additives play a crucial role in our food supply system. Understanding their categories and functions can help us make informed decisions about the food we consume. While the use of these additives is strictly regulated by food safety authorities, it's always a good idea to be aware of what's in our food. The more informed we are, the healthier choices we can make.

Article Disclaimer
The Wellyme Team

We understand the importance of reliable information, and our goal is to provide you with knowledge that empowers and informs your wellness journey.