Food Safety - Class Names and The International Numbering System​ (Section 1)


The International Numbering System for Food Additives (INS) is intended as a harmonised naming system for
food additives as an alternative to the use of the specific name, which may be lengthy. Inclusion in the INS
does not imply approval by Codex for use as food additives. The list may include those additives that have not
been evaluated by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).
The INS does not include flavourings, which have a JECFA number as identifier, chewing gum bases, and
dietetic and nutritive additives. Enzymes which function as food additives have been included in an 1100 series.
Explanatory notes on the lay-out of the INS
The INS in numerical order (Section 3) is set out in three columns giving the identification number, the name of
the food additive and the technological purposes. The identification number usually consists of three or four
digits such as 100 for curcumins and 1001 for choline salts and esters. However, in some instances the number
is followed by an alphabetical suffix, for example, 150a identifies Caramel I – plain caramel and 150b
identifies Caramel II - sulfite caramel. The alphabetical designations are included in order to further
characterize the different classes of additives (e.g. caramel produced by different processes).
Under the column listing the name of the food additive, some additives are further subdivided by numerical
subscripts. For example, curcumins are subdivided into (i) curcumin and (ii) turmeric. These identifications
identify sub-classes (in this case of curcumins) which are covered by separate Codex specifications.
The name of the food additive is sometimes followed by an additional name in parentheses. The parenthetical
name is optional, and may be used, when necessary, to indicate another commonly associated name or
synonym for the additive, for example INS 235 Natamycin (Pimaricin). Not all synonyms are listed. The name
of an additive is sometimes, after a comma, followed by a description of the additive, for example INS 161h(i)
Zeaxanthin, synthetic.
The various technological purposes of the food additives are included in the INS in a third column. The
purposes listed are indicative rather than exhaustive. The technological purposes are grouped under more
descriptive functional class titles which are intended to be meaningful to consumers. These are listed in Section
2 along with simple definitions of the function performed.
A single food additive can often be used for a range of technological purposes in a food and it remains the
responsibility of the manufacturer to declare the most descriptive functional class in the list of ingredients.
In preparing the INS in numerical order, an effort has been made to group food additives with similar purposes
together. However, because of the extension of the list and its open nature, most of the three digit numbers have
already been allocated. Consequently, the positioning of a food additive in the list can no longer be taken as an
indication of the purpose, although this will often be the case.
The food additives that have been allocated an ADI by JECFA, may be found at: and
JECFA specifications adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission are listed in CAC/MISC 6 “Codex
Specifications for Food Additives” that can be found on Codex website:
The open nature of the list
Because of its primary purpose of identification, the INS is an open list subject to the inclusion of additional
additives or removal of existing ones on an ongoing basis.