Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N Is For "Natural Flavors"

So far, all of the ingredients this month have been things you would want to cook with and could be used regularly in the kitchen, today is going to be a different story. BE WARNED! Today's topic is not for the faint of heart, as the truth of the matter is rather disgusting. Today’s ingredient, “natural flavoring”, is almost an anti-ingredient and should never be used in the kitchen. Out of all the other tasty foods in the world that starts with the letter N, why would I choice this thing? Well, "natural flavoring" is actually pretty common in processed foods, the kind you might want to avoid in the store, so it is a more common ingredient than you think.

This is what the trappers harvest for the flavor...
To sum it all up, I think this video does a great job of explaining this ludicrous ingredient. It will only take a few minutes to watch, and I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I have; Do you eat beaver butt? That’s right, the anal gland of beavers produce a secretion that is used in the food we eat and in other products such as drinks and perfumes. This secretion, known as “castoreum”, is primarily used in the food industry as a flavoring in some types of vanilla substitute, as well as raspberry and strawberries substitutes. They say the consumption is relatively low in the USA, about 300 pounds annually, but it makes you wonder what companies are allowed to put in their food as the term natural flavoring is so broad and generic…

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” (21CFR101.22).

Here is a lovely close up of our carmine friend.
Another fun additive companies will put in our food is called cochineal and sometimes carmine. Cochineal and its close cousin carmine (also known as carminic acid) are derived from the crushed carcasses of a particular South and Central American insect. When crushed these little bugs provide a lovely red hue to whatever we add them to, such as a strawberry milkshake or a brick red lip stick. Carmine can also be identified on food labels as Crimson Lake, Cochineal,  Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470 or E120, just in case you were interested in looking in the future. I am no food additive expert by any means, but if you ask me, that is quite a bit of leeway for what they can put in our food.

I’m sure the government wouldn't allow companies to put anything harmful into our food, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily want to be eating it. If anything, I hope today’s blog post makes you a bit more aware of the ingredients list on the packaging of the food you buy. It is good to be informed, that way we can make better decisions about our diet and our lifestyles! And maybe, just maybe, this new knowledge will spark a new desire to visit the blog more and to cook a bit better going forward! Thanks for reading, don’t forget to like, comment and share, and I hope to see you tomorrow!

Till next time,

~Mr. McLovin

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  1. Beaver's Butt and cochineal!! All I can say after reading this very enlightening post is: Watch what you eat; are you going to stop eating those delicious foods you didn't know contained these 2 hidden ingredients? What you didn't know before didn't hurt you, now that you know... what will your decision be? Beavers Butt and cochineal are probably used in medications too. If they are used for the cure, are you going to refuse the meds? Your well written article have given me a lot to ponder on this gross discovery. Love your posts. AtoZer

  2. I know! It is so hard to, because "natural flavor" is in so much stuff... I plan on eliminating artificial vanilla and raspberry flavors the best that I can, it seems like that is where the majority of castoreum is. Thanks for stopping by, loved your post about the boys night out!

  3. Wow. I'm actually really glad I read this post. Whenever I would read "natural flavors" I would think that it can't be anything too bad because it's "natural".

    It's always best to be informed. I like to know what it is I'm eating.

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