Health Tip of the Day
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What are the Natural Flavors in Foods and Drinks? You may have seen this on most of the labels of common food you eat and drink every day and not thought anything about it. But what are these Natural Flavors really? I recently purchased a juice drink at the hospital my Grandmother was after recovering surgery. When looking at the label of a very popular juice brand, this flavor was Mango/Strawberry, realized there were only “Natural Flavors” but no Mango or Strawberry ingredient listed at all. I began thinking, what are these Natural Flavors made of if there are no Mango’s and Strawberries in this juice?
The definition of natural flavor under the Code of Federal Regulations is: “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”. So it could be any number of these items or combination of? In other words, it could include beef by-products, but not necessarily.
So that The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) lists most foods labeled natural, including its flavorings, but they are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and heath codes. What? So, the bottom line is that you have to read those labels carefully. “Natural” might not be so natural, and that even some organic foods might contain some of these “natural flavors.” There are still many grey areas for consumers and producers alike.
According the UK Food Law – Natural Flavor – is a flavoring substance which is obtained, by physical, enzymatic or microbiological processes, from material of vegetable or animal origin which material is either raw or has been subjected to a process normally used in preparing food for human consumption and to no process other than one normally so used.
So what can come of these Natural Flavorants “Flavoring Substances” be?
- Bananas = Isoamyl acetate
- Orange = Limonene
- Cinnamon – Cinnamic aldehyde
- Black Grapes = Tartaric acid
- Grapes = Methyl anthranilate
- Curd = Lactic Acid
- Lemon = Citric Acid, Limonene
- Wintergreen = Methyl salicylate
- Strawberry = Beaver anal glands
Confused and disgusted (beaver anal gland)? I sure am. What’s so “Natural” about these. Do they occur naturally or artificially? Do I really know what was added to the food or drink I am about to consume? Not really but here are a couple extracts from the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21: In cases where the flavor contains a solely natural flavor(s), the flavor shall be so labeled, e.g., “strawberry flavor”, “banana flavor”, or “natural strawberry flavor”. In cases where the flavor contains both a natural flavor and an artificial flavor, the flavor shall be so labeled, e.g., “natural and artificial strawberry flavor”. In cases where the flavor contains a solely artificial flavor(s), the flavor shall be so labeled, e.g., “artificial strawberry flavor”.
But after reading through Title 21 it’s still very unclear to what is clarified as “Natural” or “Man-made”. Here’s some points I think might help clear this up a bit.
A ‘natural’ ingredient should be something produced by nature. Say, a natural flavoring in strawberry yogurt should be made from strawberries. However, the food industry allows synthetic and dangerous chemicals to be defined as “Natural”.
To qualify as ‘natural’, a flavor must only be derived from something natural. This can be everything from meat to tree bark, flowers to roots. This essence can then be put through all kinds of processes; oxidation, boiling and so forth, that completely alters it.
Here are a few examples of “natural” flavors that I was able to find:
Castoreum – made from a secretion from a Beaver’s anal gland. Beaver’s use this chemical to mark their territory. This chemical is processed and then used in a variety of products, including ice cream, candy and alcoholic drinks.
L- Cysteine – a common flavor enhancer made from either duck feathers or human hair. Most of the human hair variety is from Chinese women who sell it to factories to support their families.
So what should we do? Well I would suggest to just make things easy for yourself and stay CLEAR from packaged foods. But they’re so convenient, true but learn to make your own favorite processed foods and package them yourself. Spend a little time with the family in the kitchen making your meals every weekend and then package them for quick access during the week.
I have learned over the past years is that eating clean whole foods will help you lose weight, decrease your chances of preventable disease and give you more energy.
If so please comment below and I will add more like it. Thank you for stopping by Duffitness.