Corner Café

December 23, 2010

Food Additives: An Edible Adventure

Filed under: Miscellaneous & TV Shows — SeaDragon @ 9:19 pm

Just watched a fascinating documentary on SBS ONE tonight from English food writer Stefan Gates called Food Additives: An Edible Adventure (originally titled E Numbers: An Edible Adventure when shown in the UK at BBC TWO). You might be familiar with Stefan Gates if you have watched his Cooking in the Danger Zone series a few years back, which was another fascinating food documentary series.
Tonight’s episode of Food Additives: An Edible Adventure is the first of a three part series looking into the food additives, the E numbers (only applied in Europe), added to processed food. If you are interested in the subject and missed part one (about food colourings and flavourings) tonight, you might want to check out part two (about preservatives) and part three (about sweeteners) in the next two weeks on SBS ONE at 8:30pm, Thursday night.
For Australian viewers, you might want to read about the Food Additive Code Numbers for Australia or get more information from Food Standards Australia New Zealand here.


  1. I caught that show! Went looking for some of these E numbers and couldn’t find one in the house. Loved the MSG test too.

    Comment by perigrine — December 24, 2010 @ 7:39 am | Reply

    • It was a fantastic show, wasn’t it! I was surprised to find that parmesan has glutamate which causes the same symptom as MSG! Also loved the ‘red’ wine test too…

      Comment by SeaDragon — December 26, 2010 @ 9:55 am | Reply

      • the glutamate test was a good learning example. I have a few friends that swear they ‘can’t eat food with msg.’ I’d be interested to try the same thing with them. 🙂

        Comment by perigrine — January 2, 2011 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

        • Did you read the comments in his blog on the show? Someone experimented with the msg already, it was comment #31, if I remembered correctly.

          Comment by SeaDragon — January 7, 2011 @ 8:33 am | Reply

  2. Sea Dragon, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!

    Comment by Jess @ Bakericious — December 25, 2010 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

    • Jess,
      Happy New Year to you and family too!

      Comment by SeaDragon — December 26, 2010 @ 9:57 am | Reply

  3. I saw part of this show too…. got me and my guy picking up everything single food at the supermarket looking for E120 .. coz it came from bugs hhaa (natural red dye)

    Comment by cluelessbaker — December 27, 2010 @ 2:23 pm | Reply

    • I’ve got a small bottle of that at home, LOL…

      Comment by SeaDragon — January 2, 2011 @ 3:39 pm | Reply

  4. What a great show, I have a book called The Chemical Maze that I take shopping with me that lists all the nasty food additives. Checkout for more info, the author has spent over 8 years researching and rating all these numbers.

    Comment by Jono — December 30, 2010 @ 9:26 pm | Reply

  5. I just watched the show on E numbers and it basically seemed like industry-sponsored propaganda.
    This show was an opportunity to show what damage large food corporations are doing to the general public, and the opportunity was entirely lost.

    We’re told near the end that even if we only ate all natural foods, we would still be consuming around 90 E numbers, as if the statistic matters. Who cares that vitamin C was given an E number anyway?

    He should’ve concentrated at least half of the show on studies that show the direct link between some E numbers and cancer, hyperactivity, and other problems. This was glossed over in about 1 sentence.

    Enjoy watching a commercial for the chemical industry!

    Comment by Chuck — December 31, 2010 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

    • I, for one, would like to know that Vit C has been assigned a number. (And then I want those numbers printed on each citrus fruit and tomato, saying its naturally derived.) Of course, it helps if you have your trusty little ‘what e-number is this on your food label’ guide book in the supermarket. But I’m that sort of person. It takes less ink to print numbers anyway.

      The next episode (I am sure there is another one) might go into the cancer, hyperactivity and other problems in more detail.

      But hey, lets ALL go out and make our own bacon from naturally obtained nitrates. Yummy.

      Comment by perigrine — January 1, 2011 @ 6:26 am | Reply

      • Agreed that vitamin C should be assigned a number if it is added.

        LOL, the bacon… and also the human cake…

        Comment by SeaDragon — January 2, 2011 @ 4:07 pm | Reply

        • oh yeah..human cake…he looked thrilled about that. Don’t recall that he actually ate any. Did he?

          Comment by perigrine — January 2, 2011 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

          • Haha, no, he certainly did not taste that…

            Comment by SeaDragon — January 7, 2011 @ 8:30 am | Reply

    • Chuck,
      I disagree, if vitamin C is added as an additive, it should be listed with all the other additves. You cannot close an eye because an additive such as vitamin C is ‘perceived’ as good, then open an eye and scream when another additive considered as ‘bad’ is added. We should be able to see all additives listed so we can make an informed decision if we are going buy the product or not. You really cannot pick and choose which additives should be listed and which not!
      As to the studies, this show is not about what harm the additives are, it is a show about what and how the additives are made from. He did show how toxic some of the additives are, we as consumers should take responsibility ourselves if we are going to consume those products or not, not for someone else to tell us what we should or should not eat. If you feel all the products with E numbers are harmful, then vote with your wallet and not buy them. It is as simple as that.

      Comment by SeaDragon — January 2, 2011 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

  6. What I was trying to say is that not all E numbers are bad, and that the chemist was using a sneaky tactic at the end by stating that you’d still be consuming 90 E numbers even if you ate natural foods.
    Basically he was trying to make E numbers seem just as safe as the naturally occuring chemicals that just happen to have been given an E number by food standards agencies. There is a big difference between vitamin C, and many of the tar-derived food colourings, however.

    I certainly do vote with my wallet, however it’s not going to make a big difference to the bottom line of anyone. I just wish there was some easy way to make most people know about the dangers they are subjecting their own bodies to, so they can all then go and vote with their own wallets. I think that if people actually *knew* about the dangerous additives they were eating e.g. cancer risk, asthma (sulphites being the main culprit here), mood problems, ADHD, and countless other issues, they would care.
    Sadly, programs such as this one are one of the few opportunities to educate the public, which is why I feel it was such as big letdown.
    You can feel differently, and I respect that.

    Comment by Chuck — January 2, 2011 @ 4:47 pm | Reply

    • I understand what you’re saying. I certainly do not agree with everything from the show. For example, the colouring and flavouring of vegetables to entice children to eat them in ep 1 was ridiculous, although interesting as an experiment! However as an introduction to what the additives are and how they’re created/made are certainly good and informative. To go deeper and find the harmful links of some of those artificial additives would certainly take a lot more research and funding, I expect, and from what he said in ep 1, he certainly had a limited budget making this program…

      I also think that most people would be aware of the harmful aspect of some additives, but could not be bothered because of the convenience, or that common excuse too busy to care, until ‘something’ happened! How else would you explain that problem called smoking! There was a very good quote from Rick Stein’s show that has stuck in my mind where one of his guests said something along the line of: “Unfortunately it always takes a heart attack for someone to change their habit!” and I think that is the main problem.

      Comment by SeaDragon — January 7, 2011 @ 8:25 am | Reply

  7. I didn’t like this show. “Just because something is made in a lab, doesn’t mean it’s unnatural” he says. But just because something is natural doesn’t mean you should eat it and even if you can eat it doesn’t mean you should eat truckloads of it. There are way too many nitrates and nitrites in our foods, more than anyone would eat naturally. And those colours in the lollies he eat weren’t natural…but no, he just goes on about asorbic acid and how wonderful it is. That doesn’t mean all additives are good.

    Comment by LJ — August 16, 2012 @ 9:58 pm | Reply

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