Are natural flavorings safe?

In this post I wrote about avoiding store bought foods that contain ingredients such as “natural flavorings”. Why would you want to do that? Aren’t natural flavorings better than artificial flavorings? At least one might think so but in this case there not.

The exact definition of natural flavorings & flavors from Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of 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.”

Artificial flavors are made from components that do not meet this definition.

What all of this mumbo jumbo really means is there is NO DIFFERENCE between the two types of flavorings. They BOTH are made in a lab by “flavorists” who blend appropriate chemicals together in certain proportions to create a flavor. “Natural” chemicals are used to create natural flavorings and “synthetic” chemicals are used to create synthetic flavorings. The only difference between the two types of flavorings is the source of the chemicals used to create the flavor – and price. Artificial flavorings are cheaper to produce.

This ultimately does not mean that natural flavorings are better in quality or safer than artificial flavorings. Both may cause allergic reactions if you are sensitive to any one of the chemicals used to create the flavoring. They have been linked to headaches, dizziness, gastric problems and many other health related issues.

In 2006 the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) required manufacturers to declare if any of the 8 major food allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans) are contained in the natural flavoring in their product. However, since the manufacturers only have to list them as natural or artificial flavorings this will be no help to someone who has allergic reactions to any ingredient that is not listed.

Rather than try to figure out which natural flavorings are safe I’ve simply started using their inclusion in a product as a sign that this is most likely a processed product that should be avoided. If I want something that tastes like vanilla, strawberry, coffee or even meat then I purchase products that actually include those ingredients in them.

Pass on the processed stuff and just eat real food. I know for myself personally the more processed a food is the more I end up craving more of it. Real food such as veggies, meat, fruit, etc keep me feeling full while processed foods tend to be slider foods for me. Meaning they slide easily through the pouch so I don’t feel full as long which is why I want to eat more of them.

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