Ready made and processed foods are quick fixes for parents in a rush, but are those scary E numbers as bad as we think?
In this day and age, where we’re encouraged to dish up nothing but home made organic family meals, admitting to giving your child foods containing E numbers is sure to meet with disapproval from other mums. But while E numbers get lots of negative publicity, they’re not all bad.The E in E numbers doesn’t stand for ‘evil;’ it simply signifies that the additive has been approved for use in the European Union, following safety tests. In fact, some E numbers are substances found naturally in fruit or vegetables. But approval isn’t set in stone, and it can be revoked if new scientific studies unearth nasty side effects.
E numbers fall into six categories:
Combinations of some colour additives have been linked to negative effects on children’s behaviour, in particular hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Used in soft drinks, sweets and ice creams, they include:
The Food Standards Agency acknowledges that there may be cause for concern surrounding these additives.Other E numbers have divided opinions in the scientific community. For instance, research has linked the sweetener aspartame with tumours in rats, but a European Food Safety Authority review concluded that there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that it was unsafe. Controversial E numbers include:
There is currently no conclusive evidence suggesting that the population at large should avoid these additives, but you may want to limit your child’s intake to be on the safe side.
Some E numbers are necessary to keep processed food fresh and tasty, but if you want to limit your family’s consumption, you can either make your meals with fresh ingredients or read the labels carefully and switch to brands that use fewer or no additives. Low-calorie foods should be avoided for children, as they usually contain sweeteners instead of sugar.
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