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Everyone has always asked the question, what does natural flavor mean? We know we have. Natural flavors are pretty much in all packaged foods we eat. But what does it mean? Is it natural at all, or is it more artificial than consumers believe?
There is a lot of mystery surrounding natural flavors and what they are
When you see the term natural flavors in the ingredient list on a food item, stating the product only has natural flavors, it can sound like a positive thing!
But the answer is not that simple. Even on organic food, natural flavorings are generally altered in a lab in some way, meaning it is not as pure and natural as it sounds.
The first issue we see with natural flavors is that the FDA has no official classification or definition for the term.
How are companies supposed to create natural flavors that are natural and meet realistic guidelines if they don’t exist? That’s the problem; they don’t. Companies can use almost anything in their natural flavors without disclosing what makes up their flavors.
However, things get a bit more complicated from here. Natural flavors must originate from a plant or animal source, whereas an artificial flavor is entirely human-made.
But Then Again, What Does Natural Flavor Mean?
But both natural flavors and artificial flavors are synthesized in labs. Additionally, on a molecular level, natural and artificial flavors are the same. They are both doing the same things and acting the same way in food. Natural flavors are added to processed and prepackaged food. This technique makes the food taste better than it would without added flavorings.
Flavorings are often added to processed foods. It is a known way to cover up the other flavors that don’t taste as good or appealing to consumers.
And of course, natural flavors are added to food and beverages to make them taste like the flavor the product claims to be. For instance, take a natural cherry flavored ice pop. Manufacturers do not rely on the real cherry for all the flavor. It is expensive to use authentic flavor. Instead, they find other, less costly sources to best match the natural cherry flavor we all know.
In the lab, the first thing scientists do is identify the real cherry’s molecular structure. After that, they mimic that flavor with the cheaper sources they have found in their lab.
As you can see, these so-called natural flavors are made in a lab, even though some come from natural sources like spices, bark from trees, leaves, etc.
The Meaning of Natural Flavor, Final Words
In the end, natural flavors indeed are not much better than artificial flavors. However, you still may want to opt for flavors that come from a natural source than a complete man-made chemical.
Knowing all of these facts, it becomes our job to read labels and make sure we are eating products that are as close to their natural state as possible.