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E200 - E299 Preservatives

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 5 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
E Number Numbers Preserve Preservative

E numbers with a prefix from E200 to E299 fall into the preservative category. Here we offer a complete rundown of preservatives looking at what they do and the actual additive each E number represents.

Preservatives play an important role in processed food. Normally, fresh or natural products have a limited shelf life and will go off or decay after a certain period of time. One of the selling points of processed foods is that it lasts longer and can stay on the supermarket shelf or in our cupboards for a lot longer than if we were buying fresh food. It’s thanks to preservatives that the life of processed food is prolonged so much, as it’s these additives that enable this to be possible.

Not only do they help food last longer before being opened, but preservatives also help things remain edible for a longer period after they’ve been started or the packet has been opened. They work by inhibiting and stopping the growth of mould that would otherwise make food deteriorate past its best.

The idea of helping products last longer is not a new idea – the art of preserving food has been around for centuries. There are many forms of preservative that come from natural sources, such as salt and vinegar, and these are still used in this way today. But in today’s modern world there are also numerous synthetic or manmade preservatives and these make up many of the E numbers in this category.

Some of the preservatives used in foods include potassium nitrate (E249) and potassium nitrate (E252), which are frequently used to help preserve meats, such as ham, corned beef and bacon. When fruits are dried, they need an added extra to help preserve their flavour, look and taste, and sulphur dioxide (E220) is commonly used for this purpose.

Complete Reference Guide to Preservatives

The following offers a complete reference guide to all the preservatives commonly used in foods and drinks. If you’re keen to avoid products with certain E number preservatives in them, why not print out this list and take it shopping with you, so you can see at a glance which numbers it is you’re keen to avoid.

E200 – Sorbic acid

E201 – Sodium sorbate or sorbic acid sodium salt

E202 – Potassium sorbate

E203 – Calcium sorbate

E210 – Benzoic acid

E211 – Sodium benzoate

E212 – Potassium benzoate

E213 – Calcium benzoate

E214 – Ethyl 4-hydroxybenzoate

E215 – Ethyl 4-hydroxybenzoate sodium salt

E216 – Propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate

E217 – Sodium salt of E216

E218 – Methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate

E219 – Sodium salt of E218

E220 – Sulphur dioxide

E221 – Sodium sulphite

E222 – Sodium hydrogen sulphite

E223 – Sodium metabisulphite

E224 – Potassium metabisulphite

E225 – Potassium sulphite

E226 – Calcium sulphite

E227 – Calcium hydrogen sulphite

E228 – Potassium hydrogen sulphite

E230 – Biphenyl

E231 – 2-hydroxybiphenyl

E232 – Sodium biphenyl-2-yl oxide

E233 – 2-(Thiazol-4-yl) benzimidazole

E234 – Nisin

E235 – Pimaracin

E236 – Formic acid

E237 – Sodium formate

E238 – Calcium formate

E239 – Hexamine

E240 – Formaldehyde

E242 – Dimethylcarbonate

E249 – Potassium nitrate

E250 – Sodium nitrite

E251 – Sodium nitrate

E252 – Potassium nitrate

E260 – Acetic acid

E261 – Potassium acetate

E262 – Sodium acetate

E263 – Calcium acetate

E270 – Lactic acid

E280 – Propionic acid

E281 – Sodium propionate

E282 – Calcium propionate

E283 – Potassium propionate

E284 – Boric acid

E285 – Sodium tetraborate

E290 – Carbon dioxide

E296 – Malic acid

E297 – Fumaric acid

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