E300 – Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)

E300 InfoCons Consumers Protection

What is E 300 additive?

E 300, ascorbic acid is a food additive that belongs to the category of antioxidants.

In the food industry, ascorbic acid is one of the most widely used nutritional additives as: antioxidant, preservative, nitrosamine inhibitor, fortificant, etc.

It is the most widespread vitamin in nature, especially in the plant kingdom. Vitamin C can also be synthesised in the animal kingdom, but humans do not have the ability to synthesise it.

E300 InfoCons Consumers Protection

Which foods contain the food additive E 300?

Vitamin C is found in fresh fruit and vegetables, for example in:

  • Dandelions (120-180 mg/100 g),
  • blackcurrants (140-300 mg/100 g),
  • redcurrants (30-70 mg/100 g),
  • green nuts (1000-1800 mg/kg),
  • horn (50-60 mg/100 g),
  • tomato (18-60 mg/100 g),
  • red peppers (250-300 mg/100 g),
  • lobode (140-150 mg/kg),
  • lemon juice (50-70 mg/100 g),
  • orange (40 mg/100 g), mandarin (30-45 mg/kg),
  • grapefruit (40 mg/100 g),
  • nettles (100 mg/100 g),
  • dill (50-150 mg/kg),
  • horseradish (200 mg/kg),
  • conifer needle (100-300 mg/100 g) etc.

Vitamin C is found in greater quantities in the skin of fruit and less in the flesh. Physiologically mature plants are richer in vitamin C. In animal tissues, the ascorbic acid content is very low. A significant amount is found in the liver and spleen (20-50 mg/100 g). In milk, its content is between 0.7-2.6 mg/l.

E300 InfoCons Consumers Protection

Which foods can contain the food additive E 300?

Ascorbic acid is used in ”qs” doses in the following food products:

– in fruit juices and nectars,

– in extra jams and extra jellies,

– in partially and fully dehydrated milk,

– in unprocessed fruit and vegetables,

– in ice cream and frozen foods,

– in chilled and pre-packed, (ready to eat),

– in pre-packed, unprocessed and peeled potatoes,

– in non-emulsified oils and fats of animal or vegetable origin (except virgin and olive oils) for cooking, frying or sauces,

– in canned fruit and vegetables and in minced meat preparations, fresh (pre-packed).

It can also be added in ”qs” doses;

– in bread made exclusively of wheat flour, water, yeast or leavening, salt, in the specialities ”pain courant français”,

– in fresh pasta, in beer.

– in liver pâté, ascorbic acid is used in the ” qs” dose,

In pineapple juice and nectar and passion fruit 3g/l may be added.

It is also added in foods for healthy infants and young children such as: beverages, juices, fruit and vegetable-based infant foods (separately or in combination with sodium L-ascorbate and calcium L-ascorbate) at a dose of 0.3 g/kg expressed as ascorbic acid, and in cereal-based, fat-containing foods, including biscuits and crumpets, at a dose of 0.2 g/kg (expressed as ascorbic acid).[i]

How is E 300 additive obtained?

Industrially, ascorbic acid is obtained by synthesis using D-glucose as raw material.

Ascorbic acid can also be obtained in the form of vitamin C concentrate, by extraction from plant or animal raw materials rich in this substance: blackberries, currants, pine needles, walnuts, peppers, tomatoes, oranges, pituitary gland, adrenal capsule, etc.

It has a pronounced sour taste and is odourless.

In its anhydrous state, ascorbic acid is stable in air. In the presence of water, or in weakly alkaline environments, through exposure to light, air or ultraviolet radiation, it oxidises very quickly, a process which occurs with its browning. Oxidation takes place in two stages: in the first stage, dehydroascorbic acid is formed by the release of two hydrogen atoms (reversible process) and in the second stage, more vigorous oxidation leads to the formation of other acids, with loss of vitamin activity. The process is catalysed by the presence of metals (iron, copper) or enzymatically by the action of enzymes: peroxidases, ascorbinases, etc. Vitamin C has oxidoreductive (redox) properties on which its biological action is based. [ii]

What are the characteristics of E 300 additive?

Vitamin C is soluble in cold water (1:4), warm water (1:0.8), absolute alcohol (1:50) and glycerine (1:100). It is insoluble in benzene.

The table below shows the specifications set for ascorbic acid by Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 of 9 March 2012 laying down specifications for food additives listed in Annexes II and III to Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

 

E 300

ASCORBIC ACID, L-ASCORBIC ACID
Synonyms L-xyl-ascorbic acid; L(+)-ascorbic acid vitamin C, antiscorbutic vitamin, Cebion, Cantan, Redoxon,
Chemical name L-ascorbic acid; Ascorbic acid; 2,3-didehydro-L-threo-hexono-1,4 lactone; 3-keto-L-gulofuranolactone
Chemical formula C6 H8 O6
Molecular weight 176,13
Composition Content not less than 99 % C6 H8 O6 after vacuum drying in a sulphuric acid desiccator for 24 hours
Description White or pale yellow crystalline powder, odourless
Melting range Between 189 °C and 193 °C, with decomposition
Density 1,65
Purity
Loss on drying Not more than 0,4 % (in vacuum in the presence of sulphuric acid for 24 hours)
Sulphated ash Not more than 0,1
Arsen Not more than 3 mg/kg
Plumb Not more than 2 mg/kg
Mercury Not more than 1 mg/kg

 

Maximum daily allowance/body: There is no limit to the daily allowance.
Description of maximum daily quantity allowed: The daily dose allowed is not limited.
Intake dose in food: Not specified.
Description of the dose for incorporation into food: To be used in the quantities prescribed in the recipes.
Side effects: No.
Side effect description: No side effects at the amounts used in food.
Contraindications: Not specified.
Usable for children: No.
Description for use in children: Not permitted in foods intended for infants and young children.

Why is it necessary to use the food additive E 300?

The use of ascorbic acid (additive E 300) as an antioxidant agent is a must because it is able to block the autooxidation process of the food it is incorporated in. Ascorbic acid retains oxygen present in products, preventing oxidative processes.

The additive is considered a strong reductant, which by giving up two hydrogen atoms, converts to dehydroascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid can also act in the prevention of oxidative processes by prolonging the initiation phase of autooxidation of foodstuffs, due to its ability to form complex products (chelates) with metal ions (copper, iron), i.e. to form inactive complexes.

In the salting process of meat vitamin C together with E 249 and E 250 has an antioxidant effect, it prevents the action of oxidising enzymes, so that nitrosopigments are protected from oxidation. Together with isoascorbate, ascorbic acid increases the inhibitory capacity of potassium or sodium nitrite against Clostridium botulinum bacteria by complexing iron.

Also in the process of salting meat, ascorbic acid as well as ascorbates participate in reducing the rate of formation of nitrosamines (carcinogens).

In baking, the additive helps to improve the rheology of dough in the presence of oxygen. This effect is enhanced by potassium bromate. Ascorbic acid plays an important role in the processing of sprouted wheat flours by reducing the enzymatic activity of α-amylase, which leads to a decrease in the amount of dextrins in the kernel.2

Are there any side effects from consuming the food additive E 300?

The food additive E 300 does not present any health risk to the consumer. It is the main vitamin that humans need because they cannot synthesise it. It actively participates in all processes of the living cell, functioning as an oxido-reducing system.

 Lack of vitamin C in the diet causes a disease called scurvy. Vitamin deficiency affects the formation of collagen, osteoid tissue and dentin, i.e. the formation of intercellular building blocks, and the normal development of the skeleton and teeth. Lack of vitamin C in the diet decreases the body’s resistance to pathogenic micro-organisms, lowers the body’s capacity for physical exertion and its resistance to various chemicals (e.g. allergic substances).

In the human body, vitamin C participates in the multiple reactions that various categories of biochemically important compounds undergo: amino acids, nucleotides, hormones, vitamins, coenzymes, metal ions, etc.

The implications of vitamin C in metabolic processes are essential, such as the conversion of methaemoglobin to haemoglobin, folic acid to tetrahydrofolic acid, etc.

It plays an important role in the oxidative degradation of the amino acid tyrosine and in the formation of the hormone adrenaline.

Vitamin C is also involved in the synthesis of bile acids, as well as in iron absorption, preventing anaemia. It also inhibits cholesterol synthesis and prevents the development of atherosclerosis.

Functioning as a water-soluble antioxidant, ascorbic acid can inhibit the formation of nitrosamines (carcinogens) during digestion.

Vitamins A and C stimulate each other’s biosynthesis, and with vitamin E they protect each other from the action of oxidants. Vitamin C is also known to have a favourable influence on B vitamins. Conditions caused by deficiencies in thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, as a result of a diet poor in these vitamins, are prevented or delayed by external intake of vitamin C.

As a medicine, ascorbic acid is used in the treatment of scurvy, anaemia, chlorosis in children in vascular diseases in intestinal disorders, etc.

The daily requirement of vitamin C for the human body (adults) is 60-80 mg/day (with the recommendation to be ingested by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain this vitamin). For example, children aged 1-3 years need 15mg/day of vitamin C, adolescents need 65-75 mg/day and breastfeeding women need 120mg/day.[iii]

Conclusions and Legislative Regulations E 300

Ascorbic acid (E 300), sodium ascorbate (E 301) and calcium ascorbate (E 302) are authorised in the EU as food additives according to Annex II and Annex III of Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008.

The use of ascorbic acid and ascorbates as food additives has been evaluated by the FAO-WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). Both committees considered these additives to be safe for use in food.[iv]

Author: Ancuta Fulvia Manolache

Bibliographical references

[i] Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on food additives

[ii] Elena Oranescu, Food Additives-necessity and risk, SemnE Publishing House, 2005, Bucharest

[iii]https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-vitamin-c-should-i-take-daily#recommended-intake

[iv] EFSA ANS Panel (EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food), 2015.Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of ascorbic acid (E 300), sodium ascorbate (E 301) and calcium ascorbate (E 302) as food additives. EFSA Journal 2015;13(5):4087, 124 pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2015.4087

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