Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Mystery Surrounding "Natural Flavors"

As more and more people begin to learn about the benefits of healthy living, food companies have to work harder and harder at keeping their customers in the dark. Who wants to eat something that is chemically based or genetically modified when they’re trying to live and eat healthier after all? The term “natural flavors” is a common ingredient listed on "healthy" products. But you may be surprised to learn that foods containing “natural flavors” are not always vegan or even vegetarian. The Code of Federal Regulations has a standard definition for natural flavor:

“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.”

So while natural flavoring might mean plant based ingredients, it might also mean meat or animal ingredients. There may very well be meat in something appearing to be made up of only fruits and vegetables under this definition. And despite the word “natural” being used, items that contain this ingredient may not be derived from whole foods and may in fact be chemically altered. That’s a scary thought, especially when you see that the term “natural flavors” is a widely used one in products all throughout health food stores.

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