Natural flavors sound great, right? I mean for years when I looked at an ingredient list and saw natural flavors I would think to myself, sounds safe and "natural" to me and into the shopping cart it would go, but little did I know....
Little did I know that "natural flavor" is the fourth most common ingredient listed in EWG's food scores with salt, sugar and water being listed more frequently.
Little did I know there's a profession titled, flavorist, and they create flavors in a way that keep us wanting more. So instead of creating a bold, long-lasting flavor, they creating an intense, short-lasting flavor that doesn't linger and instead increases your desire for more...and more... And here we are wondering why our obesity rates are rising... these flavorists are turning us into (junk) food addicts.
Some flavors can contain more than 100 chemicals.
The Federal Food and Drug Administration defines a natural flavor as “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.”
Just because the ingredient is natural and not artificial does not make it much healthier or safer. Natural may actually have more detrimental environmental issues than artificial flavors that are synthetically made in a lab. Natural flavors may also contain synthetic ingredients/chemicals to enhance and create the effective "go back for more" flavor profile.
Example: Orange flavor may contain orange extract; however, it may also contain bark and grass extract because of the poor availability and to help lower manufacturing cost while raising sales cost.
Ethanol (alcohol) is scarily a natural solvent that can be used in flavors. Wanna hear something even scarier? Natural vanilla substitutes are not only common in the form of wood pulp, but can also come from the yellow secretions from a beavers anus that the beavers actually use to mark their territory....GROSS!!!
Ingredients or flavors that come from genetically engineered crops (GMO) are labeled natural, as the FDA still needs to condense the definition.
If you see natural or artificial flavors on an ingredient list you have no idea what ingredients, chemicals, solvents or preservatives have been added to create those flavors...how scary!
The following information below has been taken directly from www.EWG.org:
Overall, thousands of flavor chemicals are being added to foods without FDA oversight or review of the available safety information or the concentration used.
What kind of flavor do I look for?
All this being said, sticking to whole foods with fresh herbs and seasonings that create your flavor profile is 100% better than buying "fake," processed foods with synthetic (chemical based) flavors!