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What is so bad about natural flavors?

Natural flavors. They are natural…so it’s ok right?

I only eat natural flavors in organic food, not junk food. But maybe it should be labeled organic junk food. I always thought this might be a bad idea, but it’s gluten free, organic and non-GMO project verified. How could it be bad? Here come natural flavors, they sneak in there. In my favorite snacks; my organic, healthy snacks. Well, I now see you for what you are and I’m coming after you, natural flavors!

So, I decided to stop being blind to natural flavors and give up ALL natural flavors for a week. It has been really difficult!

I already avoid hidden MSG and artificial flavors. Some examples of hidden MSG include yeast extract, soy protein isolate, anything “hydrolyzed” and monosodium glutamate. Check out the long list here.

Every once in a while, yeast extract makes its way into my cupboard but I try really hard to avoid it. Argh, our favorite gluten-free pretzels from Aldi contain yeast extract (but I still buy them b/c we love them! This might change now that I am informed). Do we love them because our brain is being tricked into loving them by nasty chemicals?

Chemicals can and will trick our brains.




I recently read the book “The Dorito Effect” by Mark Schatzker. (Actually, I listened to the book on tape J) I have also read many articles by Food Babe on the dangers of natural flavors. Lately, I have been craving snack foods and I think this is why!

What does the FDA say about natural flavors?

(3) 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. Natural flavors, include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in subpart A of part 582 of this chapter, and the substances listed in 172.510 of this chapter.

What?? What does this mean? This does not sound natural and the FDA has issues deciding what natural means anyways.

Read below if you want a more specific explanation, which I think makes it even scarier- they can do *almost whatever they want and claim it natural!

The definition of “natural claims” in the FSIS’s Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, in relevant part, states that the term “natural” may be used on labeling for meat products and poultry products if the applicant for such labeling demonstrates that: (1) The product does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative (as defined in § 101.22), or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient and (2) the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed. The FSIS Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book further explains that minimal processing may include traditional processes used to make food edible or to preserve it or to make it safe for human consumption, e.g., smoking, roasting, freezing, drying, and fermenting or physical processes which do not fundamentally alter the raw product and/or which only separate a whole, intact food into component parts, e.g., grinding meat, separating eggs into albumen and yolk, and pressing fruits to produce juices. The FSIS Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book also states that relatively severe processes, such as solvent extraction, acid hydrolysis, and chemical bleaching, would be considered more than minimal processing, so the use of a natural flavor or flavoring in compliance with § 101.22 that has undergone more than minimal processing would place a product in which it is used outside the scope of the FSIS guidelines. However, the FSIS Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book states that the presence of an ingredient that has been more than minimally processed would not necessarily preclude the product from being promoted as natural, and that exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis if it can be demonstrated that the use of such an ingredient would not significantly change the character of the product to the point that it could no longer be considered a natural product. In such cases, the natural claim is to be qualified to clearly and conspicuously identify the ingredient, e.g., “all natural or all natural ingredients except dextrose, modified food starch, etc.”

I recently stumbled upon the website for GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA. If you have some free time explore all these products. There is a site for food additives and one for animal food feeds.

This was disturbing to read.

Let’s look at a few of the food additives and remember these are going into your food and YOUR BODY. Even worse your children’s bodies. I included the animal food feeds because if you eat meat those products are going into the meat, chicken, fish you consume.

Hydrolyzed pork cartilage:

Intended Use:


For use as an ingredient in active nutrition and nutritionally complete bars, granola bars, enhanced fortified water beverages, sports nutrition gels, fortified flavored milk beverages (excluding milkshakes), enhanced or fortified fruit-flavored beverages, and gummies at use levels of up to 5.0%.

According to Webster dictionary hydrolysis is : a chemical process of decomposition involving the splitting of a bond and the addition of the hydrogen cation and the hydroxide anion of water.

This process is achieved by prolonged boiling in a strong acid (ex. hydrochloric acid) and using an enzyme to simulate the hydrolytic process.

These hydrolyzed proteins are commonly used as a flavor enhancer and may contain high levels of glutamate.

Natamycin: Check out the package of shredded cheese you have in your fridge. Go ahead, look really quick. Yep, it’s in there. When I ate dairy, I would buy blocks of cheese and shred my own so I wouldn’t get this in my GI tract.

So, this is why we need to read labels and start asking why is this stuff (crap, chemicals, etc.) in our food?!

Just because something says USDA organic doesn’t mean it is the best food available. Always go for fresh organic food before packaged food.

Next time you reach for a snack, a protein bar or go to the store for a grocery trip- read the label. It doesn’t take a long time and the more you read labels the more comfortable you will be to make healthy choices.

Let me know what you find!

In health,

Dr. Jen

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