E Numbers Not Suitable for Vegetarians
If you’re a vegetarian then you’ll need to consider E numbers if you’re buying and eating processed foods. Not all E numbers are suitable for a vegetarian diet due to where they’re sourced from.
The issue of whether E numbers are suitable for vegetarians or not sadly isn’t always clear-cut. This is because some E numbers can be obtained from either plant or animal sources. An example of this is E306 (tocopherol), which can be obtained from plant fat, therefore making it suitable for vegetarians. But it’s also possible for it to be derived from pork fat, which would be unsuitable for vegetarians.
Unfortunately for consumers, manufacturers don’t always make it clear on packaging exactly where they’ve obtained some E numbers from. If the packet carries the wording, “Suitable for vegetarians,” then the chances are that the ingredients have all come from plant sources. However, if you’re following a strict vegetarian diet and want to be 100% sure or the packaging doesn’t specify whether it’s suitable for vegetarians, then the best bet is to contact the manufacturer and ask for clarification. Contact details should be on the packaging of products and you could write, phone or email.
E Numbers to AvoidE120 Cochineal:Cochineal is used as a food colouring in products such as drinks, biscuits, sweets, desserts and sauces. As it’s derived from the outer shell of a crushed cactus insect, it’s very much off-limits for vegetarians.
E Numbers to be Wary OfAs mentioned earlier, there are a lot of E numbers that can be derived from both animal and plant sources. The following numbers are examples of E numbers that can be vegetarian and non-vegetarian and that it’s therefore worth being wary of until you can determine their exact origin.
- E104 Quinoline yellow
- E160a Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, gamma-carotene and carotene
- E161g Canthaxanthin
- E252 – Potassium nitrate
- E270 Lactic acid
- E304 6-0-palmitoyl-L-ascorbic acid
- E322 Lecithin
- E325 Sodium lactate
- E327 Calcium lactate
- E422 Glycerol/glycerine
- E431 Polyoxyethylene (40) stearate
- E432 Polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monolaurate
- E433 Polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan mono-oleate
- E434 Polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monopalmitate
- E435 Polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monostearate
- E436 Polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan tristearate
- E442 Ammonium phosphatides
- E445 Glyceryl esters of wood rosin
- E470a Sodium, potassium and calcium salts of fatty acids
- E470b Magnesium salts of fatty acids
- E471 Mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids
- E472a Acetic acid esters of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids
- E472b Lactic acid esters of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids
- E472c Citric acid esters of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids
- E472d Tartaric acid esters of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids
- E472e Mono- and di-acetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids
- E472f Mixed acetic and tartaric acid esters of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids
- E473 Sucrose esters of fatty acids
- E474 Sucroglycerides
- E475 Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids
- E476 Polyglycerol esters of polycondensed fatty acids of caster oil
- E477 Propane-1,2-diol esters of fatty acids
- E479b Thermally oxidised soya bean oil interacted with mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids
- E481 Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate
- E482 Calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate
- E483 Stearyl tartrate
- E491 Sorbitan monostearate
- E492 Sorbitan tristearate
- E493 Sorbitan monolaurate
- E494 Sorbitan mono-oleate
- E495 Sorbitan monopalmitate
- E570 Stearic acid
- E585 Ferrous lactate
- E631 Sodium 5'-inositate
- E635 Sodium 5'-ribonucleotides
- E640 Glycine and its sodium salt
- E920 L-cysteine and L-cysteine hydrochloride
- E966 Lactitol
- E1105 Lysozyme
- E1518 Glycerol mono-, di- and tri-acetate
One high profile case that illustrates how this can happen with a change in ingredients (not an E number) was Masterfoods, who announced they were going to change the ingredients in Mars bars and use animal products instead of vegetarian sources. After a massive outcry, they backtracked on their idea and decided to leave the recipe as it always had been.
Due to potential changes in the ingredients of processed foods, it’s a good idea to keep up-to-date by studying food labels as much as possible.