E Numbers with Animal Origins
E numbers come from a variety of sources, but there are many that have - or may have – animal origins. Here we look at which E numbers this applies to and offer a useful guide for those seeking to avoid consuming products with E numbers derived from animal sources.
In the case of some E numbers, it’s easy to know if they are derived from animal origins, as there’s only one main source where they can come from. Sadly this isn’t always the case though and there are a host of additives which can be sourced from both animal and vegetable origins. This makes it trickier for consumers, as it’s not always easy to know exactly which source has been used in certain products.
If you’re really passionate about avoiding E numbers with animal origins, perhaps for health or dietary purposes, then one way is to avoid all additives that may or may not contain the suspect numbers. Alternatively, you could always write to the manufacturers of the products concerned and ask for confirmation of where the additives are derived from.
E Numbers Purely Derived from Animal OriginsThese are the numbers that are derived purely from animal origins:
- E120 Cochineal – This crimson red colour comes from the crushed shell of the cactus insect, Dactylopious coccus.
- E542 Edible bone phosphate – This originates from animal bones.
- E631 Sodium 5’-inosinate – This comes from meat extracts and sardines.
- E901 Beeswax – This comes from the honeycomb produced by bees. Many people may think of it as being naturally produced, but people who are strictly avoiding all animal-derived E numbers may prefer to avoid it completely.
- E904 Shellac – This substance is obtained from the resin produced by the Lac insect. It’s a native of India and is related to mealy bugs and scale insects.
E Numbers That May Have Animal OriginsThe following E numbers can be derived from other animal or vegetable origins:
- E161g Canthaxanthin – A pigment found in mushrooms and flamingo feathers.
- E236 Formic acid – An acid that’s found naturally in the bodies of ants; it’s also produced synthetically.
- E237 Sodium formate – The sodium salt which is manufactured from formic acid, so may come from ants or a synthetic source.
- E238 Calcium formate – The calcium salt of formic acid, so may come from ants or a synthetic source.
- E252 – Potassium nitrate – This occurs naturally, or is manufactured from animal or vegetable waste.
- E422 – Glycerol / Glycerin – This may be produced from animal fats.
- E474 Sucroglycerides – This can come from several sources, including lard, tallow and palm oil.
- E570 Stearic acid – This comes from animal fats and vegetable oils.
- E572 Magnesium salts of fatty acids – This is produced from stearic acid, which can be from both an animal and vegetable source.
- E627 Guanosine 5-disodium phosphate – This can come from both sardines and yeast extract.
- E631 Sodium 5'-inositate – This can come from dried sardines and extracts of meat.
- E635 Sodium 5'-ribonucleotides – This may have animal origins.
- E640 Glycine and its sodium salt - This can originate from gelatine.
- E910 – L-Cysteine – This can be extracted from the feathers from ducks and chickens.
- E920 L-cysteine and L-cysteine hydrochloride - The L-cysteine part of this can be extracted from the feathers from ducks and chickens.
- E921 L-cysteine Hydrochloride Monohydrate – The L-cysteine part of this can be extracted from the feathers from ducks and chickens.