Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Flavorists Create Artificial and "Natural" Flavors

I first came across the term Flavorist about a month ago while reading Eric Schlosser's book, "Chew on This", a hard look into the fast food industry's food and practices.  A flavorist is a chemist who creates artificial and "natural" flavors from chemicals.

Since then, I have seen the terms "artificial flavors" and "natural flavors" on many things -- including some from brands and sources I trust more than others.

CBS's 60 Minutes did a short clip into the world's largest flavor creation company, Givaudan, last Fall.  Getting any level of access is extraordinary, so enjoy the video when you get a moment.

Most of the flavor companies occupy space along the New Jersey's turnpike, one of them being International Flavors and Fragrances, and they employ tens of thousands of people -- all with the goal of making your taste and smell experience addictive.  The companies that employ them do so to sell you more, but even the so-called "natural flavors" are less than desirable.

Flavorists are chemists.  They use man-made chemicals (or chemicals made from natural sources) to create the flavors we crave.  Complicated flavors like coffee and meat can take hundreds of different chemicals to complete.  And the US Government does not require disclosure of what is actually present in the flavorings -- thus the simple phrases of artificial and natural flavors on the ingredient list.

Natural and artificial flavors are made at the same factories and often use the same chemical, one is just derived from a natural source.  And often that natural source has nothing to do with the plant, fruit, etc, you are actually tasting.

Schlosser writes that the addictiveness of McDonald's french fries in the early decades was because they were fried in beef fat, lending the beef taste to the potato (Burger King uses chicken flavoring).  However,  citing health concerns over beef fat, the US Government banned it and in 1990 McDonalds switched to using vegetable oil "flavored" with beef fat.  If you want the real deal, beef fat is still used in McDonald's restaurants in Australia, Japan, Canada and Mexico.

As an example of the hidden ingredients inside "artificial flavoring", consider the strawberry shake at a fast food restaurant.  Just the artificial strawberry flavoring alone includes the following ingredients:

  • amyl acetate
  • amyl butyrate
  • amyl valerate
  • anethol
  • anisyl formate
  • benzyl acetate
  • benzyl isobutyrate
  • butyric acid
  • cinnamyl isobutyrate
  • cinnamyl valerate
  • cognac essential oil
  • diacetyl
  • dipropyl ketone
  • ethyl butyrate
  • ethyl cinnamate
  • ethyl heptanoate
  • ethyl heptylate
  • ethyl lactate
  • ethyl methylphenylglycidate
  • ethyl nitrate
  • ethyl propionate
  • ethyl valerate
  • heliotropin
  • hydroxyphrenyl-2-butanone (10% solution in alcohol)
  • ionone
  • isobutyl anthranilate
  • isobutyl butyrate
  • lemon essential oil
  • maltol
  • 4-methylacetophenone
  • methyl anthranilate
  • methyl benzoate
  • methyl cinnamte
  • methyl heptine carbonate
  • methyl naphthyl ketone
  • methyl salicylate
  • mint essential oil
  • neroli essential oil
  • nerolin
  • neryl isobutyrate
  • orris butter
  • phenethyl alcohol
  • rose
  • rum ether
  • undecalactone
  • vanillin
  • solvent

Yum!  Enjoy that strawberry shake!

Like the world of colorants, it may be wise to limit or avoid processed foods that need flavoring of any kind to sell.  Limited or no research has been done on the long-term effects of consuming these chemicals.

Your thoughts?

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