E Numbers 101

The following list has been compiled with the help of the Vegetarian Society website. Like all lists on Compassionate Fox, it is a work in progress, so leave your questions or additions in the comments below and I’ll update where required.

For offline and on-the-go use you can download a PDF version of this list here: E Numbers 101.

E-numbers are additives. The ‘E’ stands for European and means that these additives have been tested for safety and been assessed for use in the European Union (EU). Each E-number is assigned its own unique number making it easier for manufacturers to list, which are included in foods.

The numbering system also helps to keep track of the additives, as they are grouped into various categories:

  • Colourings (100-118)
  • Antioxidants (300-340)
  • Flavour enhancers (600-650)
  • Glazing agents (900-910)

E numbers, which are never suitable for vegetarians

E120 Cochineal/carmine, this red colouring is isolated from crushed insects; Coccus cacti.
E542 Edible bone phosphate, from animal bones.

E numbers, which are unsuitable for vegans

E901 Beeswax, made by bees but does not contain insects.
E904 Shellac, natural polymer derived from lac beetles.
E913 Lanolin, a wax from sheep excreted by the skin of sheep and extracted from the wool.
E966 Lactitol, made from milk sugar.
E1105 Lysozyme, from chicken eggs.

Possibly non-vegetarian and non-vegan E numbers – Always check the source!

E101 Riboflavin; yellow food colour, which can be isolated from milk but can be commercially produced from micro-organisms, such as yeast.
E161(g) Canthaxanthin, commercially prepared from mushrooms/flamingo feathers, mainly produced synthetically from carotene.
E270 Lactic acid and lactates, all fermented products (dairy and non-dairy) contain this as a result of bacterial fermentation. Commercially produced by bacterial fermentation on starch and molasses.
E304 Ascorbyl palmitate, combination of the fatty acid palmitate with ascorbic acid occurs naturally in most fruits and vegetables. Palmitic acid is produced from fat, the main source is vegetable fat but it can be obtained from animal fat.
E322 Lecithin, commercially isolated (mainly) from soybeans or egg yolk (may be made from caged hens).
E325 Sodium lactate, sodium salt of lactic acid (E270).
E326 Potassium lactate, potassium salt of lactic acid (E270).
E327 Calcium lactate, calcium salt of lactic acid (E270).
E422 Glycerol/Glycerin, a natural carbohydrate alcohol. Commercially produced either synthetically from propene, or by bacterial fermentation of sugars.
E431 to 436 These compounds (E430-E436) contain fatty acids, which are mostly obtained from vegetable oils. However, there is the possibility that animal fats may be used.
E442 Ammonium phosphatides, obtained from ammonia and phosphorylated fatty acids, mostly derived from rapeseed oil.
E470 Fatty acid salts, derived mainly from plant origin, but animal fats may be used.
E471 Mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids, produced from glycerol and natural fatty acids, derived mainly from plant origin, but animal fats may be used.
E472 Esters of mono- and di – glycerides, esters of synthetic fats, produced from glycerol, natural fatty acids and another organic acid (acetic, lactic, tartaric, citric). The fats are obtained mainly from plant origin, but animal fats may be used.
E473 Sugar esters of fatty acid, produced from glycerol and natural fatty acids. The fats are obtained mainly from plant origin, but animal fats may be used.
E474 Sugar glycerides, esters of sugar and fats, produced from sugar and natural fats. The fats are obtained mainly from plant origin, but animal fats may be used.
E475 Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids; a combination of polyglycerol and natural fats. Normal fat consists of glycerol and fatty acids, for these products additional glycerol is coupled to the normal glycerol. Combination of polyglycerol and natural fats. The fats are obtained mainly from plant origin, but animal fats may be used.
E479 Esterified soy oil, produced by heating soy-oil in the presence of free fatty acids. The fatty acids are mainly from plant origin, but fats of animal origin may be used.
E481 Sodium stearoyl lactate, combination of stearic acid and lactic acid, resulting in a mixture of several components. Stearic acid can be derived from both plant and animal fats.
E482 Calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate, combination of calcium, stearic acid and lactic acid, resulting in a mixture of several components. The origin of stearic acid can be either plant or animal fat.
E483 Stearyl tartrate, combination of stearic acid and tartaric acid, the origin of stearic acid can be from plant or animal fats.
E491 to 495 Sorbitans, produced from sorbitol and varying acids, these are normal fatty acids derived from vegetable or animal origin.
E570 Stearic acid, a normal part of any fat.
E631 Sodium inositate, sodium salt of inosinic acid, a natural acid mainly present in animals. It is commercially prepared from meat/fish but may also be produced by bacterial fermentation of sugars.
E635 Sodium ribonucleotides, a mixture of sodium salts of guanylic and inosinic acid.
E640 Glycines, originally isolated from gelatine but can be prepared synthetically.
E920 L-cysteine, essential amino acid derived from proteins.

Animal derived carriers

There are some additives that are not derived from animal sources themselves but may involve the use of gelatine as a carrier.

E104 Quinoline yellow, synthetic non-azo dye.
E160a(i) Carotenes (mixture), these are natural colours isolated from plants.
E160a(ii) Beta Carotene.