In Europe, E numbers are used to designate food additives in chemically, physically or physiologically processed foodstuffs.
Food additives are compounds added to achieve a desired effect such as change in color, flavor enhancement, or a longer storage life, and to ensure smooth production. In most cases, food additives are synthetic, but they can be of natural origin and, with the same properties, function as active ingredients.
In order to determine, org, and catalog these various officially approved substances, the European Union issues E numbers (here the letter “E” stands, on the one hand, for the E of the EU and, on the other hand, for "edible") that are applicable in all countries in the union of states. Approvals and the assignment of numbers are only granted if no health risks exist for consumption, the respective food additive is absolutely necessary for the production, and consumers are not deceived through its use.
E numbers must be clearly indicated on the product. Applications for the allocation of E numbers must be addressed to the European Food Safety Authority, and accompanied by documentation from a scientific research institute proving and confirming the safety of the substance. The acceptable daily intake of the respective food additive may not be exceeded in a product.
The biggest advantage of E numbers is the ease of labelling and the fact that the substances have to be tested prior to registration – every country in the EU is obliged to observe these regulations. Consumers are recommended to always take one of the current free brochures in which the E numbers are listed with them when going shopping. Lists compiled by anonymous authors and circulated on the internet are not recommendable – they contain details such as “dangerous to health”, “risky”, or “carcinogenic”, which are not based on any scientific facts.
E 422: Glycerine
The popular name glycerine stands for the trihydric sugar alcohol Propane-1,2,3-triol, a by-product of natural fats, which play a central role in diverse metabolic processes. After its crude production in a chemical process, glycerine is distilled and thus refined.
Glycerine was produced for the first time in 1779 by the German-Swedish chemist and pharmacist Carl Wilhelm Scheele during the saponification of olive oil. The substance received its name in 1832, derived from the Greek word glykys, which means “sweet”. In 1854, the British entrepreneur, chemist and plant breeder George Fergusson Wilson developed a method to synthesize glycerine industrially.
Physically, the food additive with the number E 422 is a colorless and odorless, sweet tasting, soluble, clear and viscous liquid with a high boiling point. Due to its chemical property of remaining stable under most conditions, its good compatibility with numerous other substances, and the ease of processing, E 422 is used in the most diverse areas.
E 422 in the Food Industry
Glycerine is also widely used in the food industry, for example to refine flavors, improve the consistency, or optimize preservation.
In addition, E 422 acts as a solvent for food colorings and flavorings in a number of soft drinks or confectionary. In cakes and other baked goods, glycerine serves as an emollient and humectant, and it is also contained in the rind of some types of cheese.
A further, very well-known area of application is chewing gum – in this product, the food additive serves as a humectant. And E 422 is also used as a sweetener.
Roberto Echeverría Botero
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