What's in our food? All sorts of stuff, and the addition of little touches of this and that is not by any means new.
The European system of 'E-Numbers' often looks rather alarming new, but is just a formal way of identifying things, many of which have been in use for centuries, as this list shows...
Advertisement for food additives, 1930's
Volatile, Volatile Salts, Sal Volatile, Salt of Hartshorn, Baker's Ammonia
Ammonium Carbonate, which degrades with heat into ammonia gas and carbon dioxide and was used as a quick leavening agent before the introduction of baking soda and baking powder.
Gum Dragon, Gum Tragacanth, Shiraz Gum, Shiraz, Gum Elect
A natural gum obtained from the dried sap of several species of Middle Eastern legumes of the genus Astragalus.
A sweet sugar alcohol, mostly made from corn syrup, but also found in apples, pears, plums, and peaches.
Gum Arabic, Acacia Gum, Chaar Gund, Char Goond, Meska
A stabiliser containing glycoproteins and polysaccharides. A natural gum made of the hardened sap of two species of acacia tree found in Senegal and Somalia.
A red colouring powder containing santalic acid made from the Indian red sandlewood tree.
Saltpetre or Sal Prunella
Potassium nitrate. Similar to common salt, and similarly used as a food preservative at least since the 16th Century. Called 'Sal Prunella' when in a solid form - formerly thought to be a different chemical.
Bole Armenia, bolus armenus or bole armoniac
A form of iron oxide in an earthy clay found in Armenia, used as a brown colouring.
Potassium carbonate, pearl ash, salts of tartar.
Historically, pearl ash was created by baking potash in a kiln to remove impurities. The fine, white powder remaining was the pearl ash. The first patent issued by the US Patent Office was awarded to Samuel Hopkins in 1790 for an improved method of making potash and pearl ash. In late 18th century North America, before the development of baking powder, pearl ash was used as a leavening agent in quick breads.
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