Have you enjoyed any juice from a beaver’s butt lately? If you’ve been drinking any fruit-flavored drinks, then the chances are that you have. Castoreum, which is extracted from a beaver’s anal glands, is used to make artificial raspberry flavoring. Products using this flavoring include cheap ice cream, Jell-O, candy, fruit-flavored drinks, teas and yogurts.
In a recent fascinating segment of 60 Minutes entitled “The Flavorists: Tweaking tastes and creating cravings,” Morley Safer examined the multibillion dollar flavor industry, whose scientists create natural and artificial flavorings that make your mouth water and keep you coming back for more.
Specifically, he looked at Givaudan, a Swiss company that employs almost 9,000 people in 45 countries, providing tastiness to just about every cuisine imaginable. Food companies know that flavor is what makes repeat customers. So they commission Givaudan to create what they hope will be a taste that people love, but that doesn’t linger too much, so that consumers will keep coming back for more.
As Dr. David Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says to Safer:
“We’re living in a food carnival. The flavors are so stimulating, they hijack our brains.”
And he goes on:
“We’re eating fat on fat on sugar on fat with flavor. And much of what we’re eating with these flavors, you have to ask yourself, ‘is it really food?”
In addition to beaver butt juice, here are seven other flavorings and additives you may want to know about:
1. Aspartame: More popularly known as Nutrasweet and Equal, aspartame is found in foods labeled “diet” or “sugar free.” Aspartame is believed to be carcinogenic and accounts for more reports of adverse reactions than all other foods and food additives and flavorings combined. Aspartame is a neurotoxin and carcinogen.
Found in: diet or sugar free sodas, diet coke, coke zero, jello (and other gelatins), desserts, sugar free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, table top sweeteners, cereal, breathmints, pudding, kool-aid, ice tea, chewable vitamins, toothpaste.
2. Estrogen: Did you know that regular milk is full of hormones used by the milk industry to keep the cows knocked up and lactating all year round? So when you drink regular milk, you take a shot of hormones with it.
Found in: All non-organic dairy.
3. Sodium nitrate (or sodium nitrite): This is used as a preservative, coloring and flavoring in bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats. This ingredient, which sounds harmless, is actually highly carcinogenic once it enters the human digestive system.
Found in: hotdogs, bacon, ham, luncheon meat, cured meats, corned beef, smoked fish or any other type of processed meat.
4. Spinach dust: In case you think you’re getting your daily serving of vegetables when you eat that green sheen on those veggie snacks, you might want to know that this is powdered spinach dust: spinach that has been dehydrated and sucked dry of any nutritional value.
Found in: So-called “healthy” vegetable-flavored snack foods.
5. TBHQ (butane): Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ as it is more commonly referred to as, is in fact a chemical preservative which is a form of butane. It is used in foodstuffs to delay the onset of rancidness and greatly extends the storage life of foods. So instead of your chicken nuggets being fresh, butane keeps them “fresh.”
Found in: Frozen, packaged or pre-made processed foods with long shelf lives such as frozen meals, crackers, chips, cereal bars and fast food.
6. Trans fat: Trans fat is used to enhance and extend the shelf life of food products and is among the most dangerous substances that you can consume. Found in deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fats are formed by a process called hydrogenation.
Found in: margarine, chips and crackers, baked goods, fast foods
7. Vanillin (wood pulp): Most vanilla flavoring is either made from petrochemicals or derived from a by-product of the paper industry. Ester of wood rosin, which comes from pine stumps, is in citrus-flavored sodas to keep the citrus flavor evenly distributed through the can.
Found in: Artificially flavored yogurt, baked goods, candy and sodas.
And in case you’re wondering about artificial flavors and natural flavors: both artificial and natural flavors are made by “flavorists” in a laboratory by blending either “natural” chemicals or “synthetic” chemicals to create flavorings.
Artificial flavors are human-made chemical concoctions. Unlike artificial flavors, natural flavors are created from natural products – fruits, beef, chicken, spices – and transformed into chemical additives. So though it might make you feel better to see “natural flavoring” on a label, it isn’t necessarily better for you. Indeed, it’s a signal that the real thing is not included in the product.
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