Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Natural Flavors" Are Not Natural

Have you ever come across "natural flavors" on a food label? A can of soup, or a bottled sauce or dressing, or a dessert? Or perhaps a bottle of sparkling water?

"Natural"...sounds innocent enough, right?


Here's what the US Code of Federal Regulations says about "natural flavors":

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 any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.

In English: Start with something only nominally edible (like bark), do pretty much whatever you want to it, and call it a "natural flavor".

I would claim that there's nothing natural about hydrolyzed soy protein, for instance. And I don't want it in my food.

Calling these things "natural flavors" is a deliberately misleading move on the part of food processing companies. It allows them to sell us cheap food, synthesized in a factory, not grown on a farm.

It's not always easy to make your own food from scratch, but it's always worth it.


Monica Dewart said...

I, too, have discovered it to be a meaningless catch-all phrase. On more than one occasion, I have been incapacitated by hidden gluten in an otherwise gluten-free item simply by including "natural flavors" in the product. Terms must be more carefully defined, such as, natural flavors derived from wheat, corn, soy, etc. It would render a true service and justice to the millions of people who suffer from food related illnesses.

Alex Lewin said...

Monica, agreed. Your point about GF is a good one.

It will be hard to convince food processing companies to be honest about the weird ingredients they use.

In the meantime, it may be necessary for people with food sensitivities to avoid processed food altogether, when that's an option.

Amanda said...

The one I couldn't get over was "Natural Flavors" added to butter! I now mostly buy local butter or Kerrygold, but I was buying Land O'Lakes when I first switched over to "real" foods. Then I learned about "natural flavors" not being natural (and usually hiding MSG!) and realized that some of the Land O'Lakes butters has "natural flavors" added to them! I would never even thought to look for an ingredient list on butter if someone hadn't pointed it out to me!

Unknown said...

I'm with Amanda on only purchasing local butter or Kerrygold...sneaking "natural flavors" in butter is absurd!

I agree, Alex. It takes much more work to cook from scratch, but it's well worth the "sacrifice."

Lisa said...

I noticed the natural flavors moniker on Land O Lakes the last time I purchased butter (organic brand was out). However, the Land O Lakes tastes better, so there must be something nefarious in their natural flavors. Does anyone know what manufacturers might put in butter?