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Non-vegan E-numbers - ingredients and additives vegans should pay special attention to

Non-vegan E numbers and additives

Looking for non-vegan E-numbers and additives that are unsuitable for vegans? Then you've come to the right place! Additives are increasingly being added to processed foods, for example to make them look more appealing, to increase their shelf life or simply to make them taste better. Unfortunately, we are now in a confusing jungle of E-numbers and names for food but also other everyday products such as cosmetics - and unfortunately many of the added ingredients and additives are of animal origin. As long as you do not completely renounce processed foods in a vegan lifestyle, it is important to know them.

In this article I would like to give you a list of E-numbers that are never or only sometimes vegan. In addition, I will show you what vegans should pay special attention to when it comes to food ingredients. Let's go!

In advance, here is a brief overview for you:

  1. What are E numbers?
  2. Non vegan E numbers
  3. E numbers that can also be vegan
  4. Other non-vegan additives
  5. Closing words

What are E-numbers anyway?

Vegan dye for marzipan carrots

Basically, the "E numbers" are nothing more than Designations for food additives approved (at least) in the EU. The "E" stands for Europe - and the respective number has been assigned to one of the now more than 300 permitted additives. A significant proportion of them are considered to be of concern - but around 40 substances behind the E numbers are also permitted in Organic food allowed.

The E-numbers are mainly found on the back of processed ready meals. The corresponding substances are predominantly Colorants, thickeners, emulsifiers, antioxidants, flavor enhancers, and sugar substitutes and preservatives.. They are supposed to make the products shine, make them more durable, separate ingredients from each other, provide a pleasant consistency and sweeten the taste.

But as I said - it's a jungle that's almost impossible to navigate. So focus! We hold: Non-vegan E numbers are accordingly the E-numbers hiding ingredients and additives of animal origin.

Which E-numbers hide non-vegan products?

Now we continue with the concrete, non-vegan E-numbers and additives. If you know them (and this article as a kind of small reference book), it will be easier for you to consume, if possible, only those foods and goods that have been produced animal-free and, above all, animal suffering-free from the manufacturing phase to the labeling.

The The following list of E-numbers or additives of animal origin₁ was compiled by the consumer advice center. It is advisable to know the name of the additive as well, since manufacturers are also allowed to mention the usually more harmless-sounding name in the ingredients instead of the E-number.

Important notes: Please keep in mind that this list of non-vegan E-numbers from the consumer advice center does not guarantee completeness - and that some of the listed substances also exist in a vegan form. Italic written lines I have also added independently.

List of non-vegan E-numbers and additives

E120Carminic acidRed dye
E132Indigo CarmineDye
E270Lactic acidAcidifier
E304Fatty acid esters of ascorbic acidAntioxidant
E322 LecithinEmulsifier, antioxidant, stabilizer, flour treatment agent
E325Sodium lactateAcidity regulator, melting salt, solidifying agent
E339Sodium phosphatesAntioxidant, Melting Salts, Acidifier
E422 GlycerinFiller and humectant.
E434Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monopalmitate (polysorbate 40)Emulsifiers and complexing agents.
E435 E436Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearate (polysorbate 60)Polyoxyethylene sorbitan tristearate (polysorbate 65)Emulsifiers and complexing agents
E445 Glycerol ester from root resin/colophonic esterStabilizer and opacifier.
E451Triphosphates, phosphateEmulsifiers, stabilizers and acidity regulators
E452PolyphosphatesEmulsifiers, stabilizers and acidity regulators.
E470ASodium, potassium and calcium salts of fatty acids, salts of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, carriers and foaming agents
E470BMagnesium salts of edible fatty acids, salts of edible fatty acidsEmulsifier, carrier and foaming agent
E471Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, coating and flour treatment agents
E472AAcetic acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, coating and flour treatment agents
E472BLactic acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, foam stabilizers of flour treatment agents
E472CCitric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsEmulsifiers, antioxidants and flour treatment agents
E472DTartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsBaking emulsifiers and flour treatment agents
E472EMono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsFlour treatment agents and emulsifiers
E472FMixed acetic and tartaric esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsBaking emulsifiers and flour treatment agents
E473Sugar esters of fatty acidsEmulsifiers and flour treatment agents
E474Sugar glyceridesEmulsifiers and flour treatment agents
E475Polyglycerol esters of fatty acidsEmulsifiers and stabilizers
E476Polyglycerol polyricinoleateEmulsifier and stabilizer
E477Propylene glycol esters of fatty acidsEmulsifiers and crystal influencers of hard fats
E479Thermooxidized soybean oil with mono- and diglycerides of fatty acidsEmulsifiers and release agents
Sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate
Calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate
Artificial emulsifier and flour treatment agent
E491Sorbitan monostearateEmulsifier, defoamer, fat crystal influencer
E492Sorbitan tristearateEmulsifier, defoamer, fat crystal influencer
E493Sorbitan monolaurate
Sorbitan monooleate
Emulsifier, defoamer or fat crystal influencer
E495Sorbitan monopalmitateEmulsifier
E542Bone phosphateAnti-caking agent
E570Fatty acids, edible fatty acidsEmulsifiers, coating and release agents
E574Gluconic acidAcidity regulator, stabilizer and complexing agent
E585Iron II lactateColor stabilizer
E620Glutamic acidFlavor enhancer
E621Monosodium glutamate, sodium glutamateFlavor enhancer
E622Monopotassium glutamate, potassium glutamateFlavor enhancer
E623Calcium diglutamate, calcium glutamateFlavor enhancer
E624Monoammonium glutamate, ammonium glutamateFlavor enhancer
E625Magnesium diglutamate, magnesium glutamateFlavor enhancer
E634Calcium 5'-ribonucleotideFlavor enhancer
E635Disodium 5'-ribonucleotideFlavor enhancer
E640Glycine and its sodium saltsFlavor enhancer
E901Beeswax white and yellowRelease and coating agents
E904ShellacRelease and coating agents
E920L-CysteineFlour treatment agent
E966LactiteSweetener, sugar substitute and carrier
E1105LysozymePreservative for hard as well as semi-hard cheeses and as enzyme for all foods
A list of E-numbers or additives of animal origin | Prepared by Verbraucherzentrale

Which of the E numbers can also be vegan?

As already briefly indicated, some of the listed E-numbers are not necessarily "unvegan". Therefore, here I present you the ingredients that can theoretically also have a plant origin:

  • L-Cysteine (E920) can also be vegan
  • Mono- and diglycerides (E471, fatty acids) can also be vegan
  • Glutamic acid/sodium glutamate (E620) may be vegan
  • Anthocyanins (E163) can also be vegan
  • Lecithin (E322) can also be vegan
  • Riboflavin (E101) can also be vegan
  • Disodium Osinate (E631) can also be vegan
  • Indigo Carmine (E132) can also be vegan

Do you know of any other E-numbers or additives in foods that can be of both animal and plant origin? Then just write a short comment and I will add to the listing.

Non-vegan additives without E-number

Non-vegan E numbers and additives
Honey is relatively quick to identify as a non-vegan ingredient - but with others it becomes much more difficult

Now you know the non-vegan additives and ingredients that are hidden behind many E-numbers. But there are still some more ingredients (but without E-number), around which you have to be careful with the vegan diet or with the vegan lifestyle should give a wide berth.

Here I list them for you as well:

  • Albumin (protein)
  • Flavors
  • Castoreum/Castoreum
  • Butterfat
  • Skimmed or whole milk powder
  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Gelatine
  • Honey
  • Isinglass
  • Casein (but can also be vegan)
  • Lactose (lactose)
  • Lanolin/wool wax (e.g. for vitamin D3 capsules, but can also be vegan).
  • Lab
  • Stearic acid (but can also be vegan)
  • Tallow/Talg
  • Whey/Whey

Notice: Even this overview is certainly not perfect! If you know other, not vegan ingredients, I'm happy about your support with a hint in the comments.

Know and avoid non-vegan E-numbers and additives

Especially when looking at the ingredients of finished products, E-numbers or the names of the corresponding additives can be seen again and again. Many people are not aware and perhaps do not care whether they are of animal or plant origin. But if they knew that body parts or even excretions (e.g. in the case of shellac (E 904)) from animals were in a food, they would probably no longer eat it.

I really hope that this list will help you to identify non-vegan E-numbers and ingredients faster in the future. If you are not sure whether vegan or not, you can simply ask the respective manufacturer in person, by phone or by mail. Living as vegan as possible is simply a constant learning process.

Do you have questions, tips or other E-numbers and substances that should be added here? Then I am curious about your message in the comments column.

Be always kind to animals,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS.: Under "why go vegan?" I will now explain all my personal motives for the plant-based diet and the vegan lifestyle. They make clear to you why I make no exception even with seemingly insignificant ingredients.

₁ Jutta Schulte: Additives from animals (as of 13.06.2022), available at [15.06.2022].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, because I get a small share of the sales revenue - and of course the product price does not change. Thank you for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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