E numbers are codes for chemicals which can be used as food additives for use within the European Union (the "E" prefix stands for "Europe") and Switzerland. They are commonly found on food labels throughout the European Union. Safety assessment and approval are the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority.
Having a single unified list for food additives was first agreed upon in 1962 with colours. In 1964 the directives for preservatives was added, 1970 for antioxidants and 1974 for the emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners and gelling agents.
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“God ... created a number of possibilities in case some of his prototypes failedthat is the meaning of evolution.”
—Graham Greene (19041991)