Organic food and additives

For a food to be classified as organic in the EU, at least 95% of the ingredients must have been produced without proscribed pesticides, fertilisers or additives.

In addition, when a farm has moved over to organic farming, its crops can only be classified as organic two years after proscribed treatments were last used on the farm, and three years if the crops are perennials. There is also a second category of organic food, where at least 70% of the ingredients are organic, and these can be labelled “made with x% organic or organically produced ingredients”.

It may seem a little surprising that only 95% of the ingredients must be organic. The reason for this is simple – some non-organic ingredients, including additives, are so essential that they are permitted in organic food. The non-organic ingredients that are allowed are:

  • Non-organic additives, yeasts and minerals
  • Processing aids, such as releasing oils and flushing gases
  • Agricultural ingredients.

A total of 45 additives are permitted in organic foods, and these are listed below. One of the most important of these is sulfur dioxide, E220. Wine contains sulfur dioxide as a preservative, whether or not it is classified as organic. It acts as a preservative, antioxidant and bleaching agent, and there is no adequate alternative. Organic wine also contains the clarifying agents bentonite (E558) and kaolin (E559), both of which are naturally occurring clays.

Click for further information about the European regulations on organic food.

List of additives currently permitted in organic food within the EU

  • E 153: Vegetable carbon
  • E 160b: Annatto, Bixin, Norbixin
  • E 170: Calcium carbonate
  • E 220: Sulphur dioxide or E 224: Potassium metabisulphite
  • E 250: Sodium nitrate or E 252: Potassium nitrate
    E 270: Lactic acid
  • E 290: Carbon dioxide
  • E 296: Malic acid
  • E 300: Ascorbic acid
  • E 301: Sodium ascorbate
  • E 306: Tocopherol-rich extract
  • E 322: Lecithins
  • E 325: Sodium lactate
  • E 330: Citric acid
  • E 331: Sodium citrates
  • E 333: Calcium citrates
  • E 334: Tartaric acid (L(+)–)
  • E 335: Sodium tartrates
  • E 336: Potassium tartrates
  • E 341(i): Monocalcium phosphate
  • E 400: Alginic acid
  • E 401: Sodium alginate
  • E 402: Potassium alginate
  • E 406: Agar
  • E 407: Carrageenan
  • E 410: Locust bean gum
  • E 412: Guar gum
  • E 414: Arabic gum
  • E 415: Xanthan gum
  • E 422: Glycerol
  • E 440(i): Pectin
  • E 464: Hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose
  • E 500: Sodium carbonates
  • E 501: Potassium carbonates
  • E 503: Ammonium carbonates
  • E 504: Magnesium carbonates
  • E 509: Calcium chloride
  • E 516: Calcium sulphate
  • E 524: Sodium hydroxide
  • E 551: Silicon dioxide
  • E 553b: Talc
  • E 938: Argon
  • E 939: Helium
  • E 941: Nitrogen
  • E 948: Oxygen