by M. ‘Butterflies‘ Katz
The objective of this article is to warn you not to trust the term natural when you see natural flavor on a food label, and to urge you to tell so called Natural Food Company that we don’t want mystery chemicals in our foods.
The exact definition of natural flavors from the Code of Federal Regulations is as follows:
The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.
When the phrase ‘natural flavors’ appears on a package, the best move is to call the company and find out what the flavors are actually made from. Of course, I say this assuming that we’re all the kind of people who would be horrified to find out that we might have come close to ingesting fluid from the sex glands of beavers.
Think that sounds absurd? Then you must not have heard of castoreum, which is “used extensively in perfumery and has been added to food as a flavor ingredient for at least 80 years.”
Castoreum is a bitter, orange-brown, odoriferous, oily secretion, found in two sacs between the anus and the external genitals of beavers. The discharge of the castor sac is combined with the beaver’s urine, and used during scent marking of territory. Both male and female beavers possess a pair of castor sacs and a pair of anal glands located in two cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail.
Castoreum is a product of the trapping industry. When beavers are skinned for their fur, these glands are taken out, and are sold after being smoked or sun-dried to prevent putrefaction.
The European Beaver was hunted to near extinction, both for fur and for castoreum, which was also believed to have medicinal properties. The North American beaver population was once more than 60 million, but as of 1988 was 6–12 million, largely due to extensive hunting and trapping. Although sources report that beaver populations have now recovered to a stable level, some experts say that today’s American beaver population is only 5 percent of what it was when Europeans first settled in North America.
Castoreum is used in “high class” perfumery for “refined leathery nuances.” It is also reportedly used in some incense, and to contribute to the flavor and odor of cigarettes. In food, castoreum is used to flavor candies, drinks, and desserts such as puddings.
Natural Flavors and Artificial Flavors are basically the same, and are chemical additives
Don’t let the word ‘natural’ fool you. It’s a marketing ploy being used to allay the suspicions of conscientious consumers who are trying to choose foods wisely. It’s a term that food producers are permitted to use instead of listing the actual ingredients in a product. It shouldn’t be legal to withhold ingredients from the public, and it shouldn’t be legal to call a product that contains a chemical additive ‘natural’.
The world’s giant producer of both ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ chemical flavors is International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF). Located off the New Jersey Turnpike, their lab workers concoct the chemicals that give smell or taste to floor polish, detergent, deodorant…and food. These chemical potions are then purchased by food producers who add them to their products. When marketing to the uncaring portion of the public that is currently subsisting on Kool-Aid and TV Dinners, food producers use ‘artificial’ flavor. When marketing to health conscious, green living types, food producers like Imagine Foods use ‘natural’ flavor to make us believe this mystery ingredient is perfectly innocuous. Don’t be fooled by this clever marketing trick!
The only difference between an artificial and a natural flavor is that the artificial flavor never came from a food in the first place, but once upon a time, the natural flavor did. For example, the natural flavor for banana was derived by distilling a chemical called amyl acetate from the banana, and then copying its properties. Artificial banana flavor is made out of vingear, amyl alchohol and sulfuric acid. Both routes may produce a banana-like taste and smell, but neither route is derived from putting an actual banana in the end product. It’s all achieved by totally unnatural processes being conducted in giant factories by people in lab coats. It’s not healthy, wholesome or necessary…and it’s sure not natural!
Food tastes good when you use actual, real ingredients. Whole foods don’t need additives to taste perfect, just as they are. When a company is adding chemical flavorings to their products, they are either trying to take financial shortcuts or are covering up a really bad taste. Remember…their goal is to sell, and they are quite willing to make a fool of you and your taste buds to do so.
Don’t fall for it.