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‘Natural Flavor’ Comes From A Beaver’s Butt (honeycolony.com)
32 points by alt_ 1370 days ago | hide | past | web | 13 comments | favorite

I used to work in a flavor company. "Natural" strawberry flavor also uses an ingredient extracted from rotten eggs. It has to have at least some of what it says it is (like strawberry extract) to be called what it is, but this can be like one drop in a barrel. Also, if you add even the smallest amount of natural flavor to an artificial flavor, you can call it "Natural and Artificial."

Basically, the artificial flavors are really cheap, so people try to avoid the natural stuff when customers don't care.

But on that note, there are some good ingredients, since some flavors are too hard to create unless you use the real stuff (like black tea -- you just overbrew it to make a concentrate).

I don't think this is that big a deal.

What I think is funny is when an ingredient can both be found in nature (e.g. in the shell of a beetle) or made in a lab, but the generally more expensive and lower quality natural version is chosen so the product can be "all natural."

I think it's reasonable for it to be a big deal to folks who have made a personal decision (for whatever reason) that they don't want to consume animal products.

Personally, if beaver butt is tasty, that's fine with me, but I respect the desires of other to avoid animal products, and think it's reasonable that such information be clearly disclosed.

Disclaimer: I didn't RTFA, and it's entirely likely this argument was made there.

Second that - for people who make the ethical/moral reason for limiting or abstaining from eating/using animal products, this is quite troubling. Seems like food companies could strike a reasonable middle ground by labeling foods as "containing animal products" whenever they do without giving away any trade secrets.

So why are companies allowed to just use the non-descript term "Natural Flavor" in a list of ingredients, instead of Castoreum? That seems to be the actual problem here.

Under a certain percentage by weight, flavors don't need to be specifically listed so that producers aren't compelled to reveal trade secret recipes.

Just to hazard a guess: perhaps the food industry lobby pays better than consumer protection lobby.

I wish I knew the answer but PubMed (database from the National Library of Medicine) is a good source for further research on both the ingredient and policy behind it: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17365147

There are whole varieties of fungi being used as natural flavouring, for instance in yogurts to give them the natural flavour of apple, vanilla, strawberry, pineapple, etc

A couple of PDFs on the subject:

* http://wsmbmp.org/proceedings/2nd%20international%20conferen...

* http://www.fungaldiversity.org/fdp/sfdp/FD13-153-166.pdf

Perfectly natural, but certainly not what you would expect these flavours to come from.

But there is nothing weird about eating fungi. It’s common (e.g. in delicious Gorgonzola).

In that context I can see really nothing strange about using fungi for flavouring.

From "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" about the ingredients in ice cream sundaes. Pretty interesting show when it was on.


From what I've read, Castoreum is (a) prohibitively expensive and (b) banned all over the world, so the chances of finding it in your ice cream or any other food are zero. Not that said food will be lacking other equally tasty ingredients.

What they fail to mention is how they figured out stuff tastes like that... I can imagine there is some guy out there who tastes stuff just to see what it tastes like. "Hmmm, that is a strange looking bug, I wonder what it tastes like?" "What is that stuff on that beaver's butt? I wonder what it tastes like?"

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