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The Gross Truth About Natural Flavors

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The Gross Truth About Natural Flavors

Natural Flavors…

The name sounds innocent enough, but these mild-sounding words are used by the food industry as an umbrella term for some pretty horrible stuff, including certain ingredients that come from extreme animal abuse.

The exact definition of natural flavors from the Code of Federal Regulations is as follows:

“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.”

When the phrase ‘natural flavors’ appears on a package, the best move is to call the company and find out what the flavors are actually made from. Of course, I say this assuming that we’re all the kind of people who would be horrified to find out that we might have come close to ingesting fluid from the sex glands of beavers.

Think that sounds absurd? Then you must not have heard of castoreum, which is “used extensively in perfumery and has been added to food as a flavor ingredient for at least 80 years.”

Image: Rasmus Thomsen /

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Read more: Animal Rights, Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Food, Pets, Vegan, Wildlife

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Angel Flinn

Angel Flinn is Director of Outreach for Gentle World – a non-profit educational organization whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making the transition.


+ add your own
3:39PM PDT on Jul 25, 2012


3:02PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

11:25PM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

Yechh. I admit, I do sometimes buy things with "and other natural flavors" on the label, but I always have wondered... 'natural' is a bit vague for a reason.

11:07PM PST on Dec 12, 2011

Yuck! Thanks!

5:23PM PDT on Aug 18, 2011

Amazing. Thanks.

3:36PM PST on Jan 10, 2011

we have chemicals, why don't we just use those? science made us all those yummy artifical things for a reason

12:38AM PST on Dec 5, 2010

A little castoreum must go a long way to be used in all these mass produced items.
A good reminder that flavoring can be about anything.

7:21PM PST on Nov 26, 2010

Usually when we eat things such as cereal or bread there is a certain percentage of the product that is allowed to be made from insect parts!

8:01PM PST on Nov 23, 2010

It's like a conspiracy, isn't there any alternatives that these companies can use - and who was the person who discovered this stuff!!!

4:25AM PST on Nov 17, 2010

Disgusting or not, we've ingested it.

Get over it and don't make the same mistake.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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