Home > Diet & Health > E Numbers and Vegans

E Numbers and Vegans

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 7 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Vegan Vegans Not Suitable Unsuitable E

E numbers in foods and drinks is of concern to people following all sorts of diets and this includes vegans. Here we explore which E numbers can be safely consumed – or not – by vegans.

People who are vegans follow a strict vegetarian diet but also avoid any dairy products or eggs. Many vegans also avoid honey, or products containing honey, too. The issue of whether E numbers are suitable for vegans 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 vegans. But it’s also possible for it to be derived from pork fat, which would be unsuitable for vegans.

Unfortunately for consumers, manufacturers don’t always make it clear on packaging exactly where they’ve obtained some E numbers from. Some products are endorsed by organisations such as the Vegan Society, so you can be sure if is suitable for you to eat. But if you’re following a strict vegan diet and want to be 100% about a product, 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 Avoid

  • E120 Cochineal
  • E542 Edible bone phosphate
  • E631 Sodium 5’-inosinate
  • E901 Beeswax
  • E904 Shellac

E Numbers to be Wary Of

As 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 vegan and non-vegan and that it’s therefore worth being wary of until you can determine their exact origin.
  • E101 Riboflavin
  • E101a Riboflavin-5'-Phosphate
  • E104 Quinoline yellow
  • E153 Carbon black
  • E160a Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, gamma-carotene and carotene
  • E161b Lutein
  • E161g Canthaxanthin
  • E236 Formic acid
  • E237 Sodium formate
  • E238 Calcium formate
  • E252 – Potassium nitrate
  • E270 Lactic acid
  • E304 6-0-palmitoyl-L-ascorbic acid
  • E322 Lecithin
  • E325 Sodium lactate
  • E326 Potassium lactate
  • E327 Calcium lactate
  • E422 Glycerol/glycerine
  • E430 Polyoxyethylene (8) stearate
  • 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
  • E572 Magnesium salts of fatty acids
  • E585 Ferrous lactate
  • E627 Guanosine 5-disodium phosphate
  • 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
It’s important to note that ingredients of products do change, so a processed food that you were not able to eat in the past may become suitable for you as a vegan at a later stage if the offending E number is removed or replaced. Likewise, things can change in the other direction too, with manufacturers suddenly adding different E numbers to favourite foods so they suddenly become unsuitable for your dietary requirements.

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.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word: