Controversial Ingredients

Natural Flavoring

Published on Thursday, 31 May 2012 00:29


According to the Food and Drug Administration:

"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." (Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations)

The FDA does not require companies to disclose ingredients of color or flavor additives so long as all the chemicals in them are considered by the agency to be GRAS ("generally recognized as safe") enabling companies to maintain secrecy of formulas. It also hides the fact that flavors often contain more ingredients than the foods to which they give taste. A typical artificial strawberry flavor contains over 30 chemicals. According to manufacturer safety data sheets those chemicals cause eye irritation, corneal damage, eye burns, skin irritation, severe / permanent damage to digestive tract, gastrointestinal irritation, gastrointestinal tract burns, CNS depression, neurological effects, liver abnormalities, cardiac abnormalities, or other harm.

Natural flavor, according to the FDA, must be derived entirely from natural sources (herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, beef, chicken, yeast, bark, roots, etc). Consumers prefer to see natural flavors on a label out of a belief they are more healthful. Natural flavor is not necessarily more healthful or purer than an artificial flavor. Almond flavor when derived from natural sources may contain traces of hydrogen cyanide, a deadly poison. When derived by mixing oil of clove & amyl acetate, it does not.

Natural flavors and artificial flavors are often manufactured at same chemical plants. Flavor manufacturing may also involve biotechnology, using enzyme reactions, fermentation, & fungal and tissue cultures. Flavors created by these methods are considered natural flavors by the FDA. When a natural flavor or artificial flavor is added to a food or drink the resultant processed food is no longer natural & is potentially harmful.

Hundreds of chemicals are used to mimic natural flavors; many may be used in a single flavoring, such as for cherry soda pop. Most flavoring chemicals also occur in nature and are probably safe, but they are used almost exclusively in junk foods. Their use indicates that the real thing (often fruit) has been left out. Companies keep the identity of artificial (and natural) flavorings a deep secret. Flavorings may include substances to which some people are sensitive, such as MSG or HVP.

Natural flavoring can contain allergens such as seafood or dairy.

Why are Natural Flavors Controversial?

Food manufacturers are permitted to use “flavors,” “flavoring,” “natural flavors” and “artificial flavors” as a label for any number of chemicals that they don’t have to disclose, and we find that lack of transparency in food labeling to be unacceptable and quite controversial.

We suggest that they change their ingredient list to explain exactly what these “flavors” are so that the consumers can decide for themselves if the ingredients are, in fact, natural. is obsessed with one thing: the facts. We believe that consumers have the right and responsibility to know exactly what is in the products they purchase and feed to themselves and their families. Labeling that hides chemical additives, potential allergens and other ingredients is contrary to our core values and therefore always considered “controversial,” whether the manufacturer claims it is “natural” or not.

Effects and Symptoms


If you have a food allergy such as, seafood, eggs, or dairy, you may have a reaction to natural flavors.


    • Wheezing
    • Hives
    • Skin rash (note: eczema is a common skin condition often associated with food allergies, see your doctor for proper diagnosis)
    • Diarrhea
    • Loose stools
    • Runny nose
    • Cramps
    • Headache
    • Vomiting
    • Coughing
    • Asthma
    • Anaphylaxis (can occur in some severe cases) Anaphylaxis is when the throat swells, making breathing difficult because the airways constrict.  Other symptoms may include a rapid pulse, dizziness, shock, and lightheadedness.  This is life threatening and needs to be treated immediately by a clinician.

Substitutions for natural flavors

    • Whole natural foods
    • Organic foods
    • Non-processed foods