Stefan Gates – E Numbers

Perhaps the most provocative statement you can make today that also happens to be true is this: That the words “healthy” and “unhealthy”, as non-experts use them in everyday speech, are virtually meaningless.  Political topics provoke a few, but bore the rest.  But talk about what’s good or bad for your health, and everybody has a pet theory.  And they do not like it when you say, “actually, that probably doesn’t affect your health at all”.

I came across Stefan Gates’s E Numbers first as a documentary series, and here’s the book version.  E numbers are those spooky additives the food industry fill our food with.  And yes, apart from making our food taste and smell better, (much the same thing), and last longer, what have additives ever done for us?  Well, they’ve also made food safer and less fattening.  But apart from that?  Absolutely nothing.

The reason you can expect almost every item of food you buy to be both affordable and almost perfect, is because we’re cheating – partly by using additives.  Regular nature doesn’t work that way.  And even some seemingly nonsensical additives, like coloring, actually have a large impact on how things taste.

This book quickly summarizes the ideas in the series, and is mostly just a long list of E numbers that explains what they all are and whether you should be afraid of them. (Short version: probably not).  The series is more entertaining.  But it’s a handy reference for the next time you’re stupid enough to start another health discussion.

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