Category Archives: natural flavoring

There’s an all-important ingredient missing from Starbucks famous Pumpkin Spice Latte … and it’s not the espresso

starbucks (1)You probably can guess that FoodFacts.com has the utmost respect and admiration for Food Babe, Vani Hari. She’s never afraid to take on food manufacturers and challenge them to change. Her efforts have led to many successes that are helping consumers enjoy healthier options. Hari’s writing has prompted petitions that forced Subway to remove azodicarbonamide from its bread, criticized pizza chains for using MSG, and even convinced Chick-fil-A to phase out chicken given antibiotics.

Hari’s latest investigation is aimed at Starbucks, specifically its pumpkin spice latte, with an August 25 blog post titled “You’ll never guess what’s in a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. (Hint: You won’t be happy).”

As with many of her investigations, the Food Babe’s most pressing concern begins with Starbucks’ failure to disclose ingredients for all of its beverages online. Hari writes:

While they list some ingredients on their website, they still do not list the ingredients in their most popular items: their drinks! This includes all of their lattes, frappuccinos, macchiatos, smoothies, etc.

Indeed, Starbucks.com lists the ingredients only for all its food items — but no beverages. However, the issue is something the company says it’s working to amend.

“With more than 170,000 ways to customize your Starbucks beverage, listing ingredients can be very complex. We’ve been working on listing our core beverage recipes online via Starbucks.com, same as we do with our food, and hope to have an update in the near future,” a media spokesperson said Wednesday via email.

The Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte is a superstar in the coffee world. It has millions of afficionados. Consumers wait patiently for the beverage to reappear in Starbucks locations nationwide every fall. Unfortunately, it appears that it lacks an all-important ingredient. There’s no actual pumpkin in the beverage.

In her post, Hari goes on to list several “harmful” ingredients found in Starbucks’ most popular beverage, the PSL, including IV caramel coloring, Monsanto milk, pesticide residue, artificial flavors, preservatives, and sulfites.

The ingredient list reads as follows:

Milk, Espresso (Water, Brewed Espresso Coffee), Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce (Sugar, Condensed Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup or Sweetened Condensed Nonfat Milk (Milk, Sugar), Annatto (for color), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color (class IV), Salt, Potassium Sorbate (preservative)), Whip Cream (Whipping Cream, Starbucks Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Caramel Color (class IV)), Pumpkin Spice Topping: Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove, Sulfites.

While Starbucks did not respond to questions about the Food Babe’s pumpkin spice latte blog post — including whether it has affected the company’s decision to make any changes to the drink — the media representative confirmed that the company is actively working to remove the caramel coloring from its beverage syrup.

“We are actively looking at phasing out caramel coloring, though we don’t have timing to share,” the media spokesperson said. “In any instances where it is used in our beverages, the level is well below the No Significant Risk Level (NSRL) and safe to consume.”

While Hari’s claim that the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte contains absolutely no real pumpkin is also true, it appears Starbucks is going with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” stance. According to the spokesperson, the coffee giant won’t be giving in on that one anytime soon.

“The idea behind the Pumpkin Spice Latte has always been to have an espresso-forward beverage, which is core to what Starbucks is known for, infused with pumpkin-inspired flavors and spices of the fall season,” she said. “The PSL has become the company’s most popular seasonal beverage of all time, and we have no plans to change the recipe.”

So, if we’ve got this right, Starbucks most popular, widely embraced fall beverage will continue to offer consumers the great taste of pumpkin without ever including any pumpkin in its ingredient list. It was designed to bring you the taste of pumpkin with natural and artificial flavor (not to mention at least a few other questionable ingredients) and it’s just fine the way it is. Except for the caramel coloring — which Starbucks is “working on” replacing, but isn’t ready to do quite yet.

Hmmm. Kind of makes you wonder how the Pumpkin Spice Latte managed to rise to its current stratospheric level of popularity. Go Food Babe.

http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/cleanplatecharlie/2014/08/starbucks_to_food_babe_no_plans_to_put_real_pumpkin_in_pumpkin_spice_latte.php

So what’s the FoodFacts.com Health Score really all about anyway?

Today FoodFacts.com received an email from a concerned visitor regarding a margarine product on our site. The visitor disagreed with the C- score for the product, saying it really should have been awarded an A. The comment was based on the idea that the Report Card for this margarine pointed out that it contains no fiber. It was pretty easy for that visitor to assume that, in fact, the reason for the C- score was the fact that the product lacks fiber. First, we want to make sure that our community understands that C- is really not a poor Health Score. It’s not the best, but it’s certainly far from being the worst.

We thought it was worth a blog post to address the visitor’s concerns, in case others have the same thoughts when viewing the Health Score and the Report Card for any product. In this particular food category, fiber doesn’t impact the Health Score at all. It’s not figured   in the calculations used to arrive at the rating. What the visitor missed was the inclusion of “Artificial Flavors” in the ingredient list. There are many consumers confused by “Artificial” and “Natural Flavors” and why these are considered controversial items.

“Artificial flavors” is a label that manufacturers use for chemical formulations that they aren’t required to disclose. This means that a product could contain unknown allergens, controversial ingredients and other problematic items, because manufacturers don’t have to tell us what chemicals make up these “artificial flavors.” To demonstrate why we take “artificial flavors” seriously, here is a list of what’s contained in a typical Artificial Strawberry Flavor:

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 acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.

That massive list is all hidden by the phrase “artificial flavors,” and consumers are left none the wiser. “Natural Flavors” are often created with the same ingredients as “artificial flavors,” but extracted or created in a way that allows manufacturers to call them “natural” when they are really anything but.

So while that margarine product lists one controversial ingredient, “Artificial Flavors”, that one phrase is actually hiding a list of others that we’ll never be aware of. When you take that ingredient into consideration and then add it to the fact that margarine is a fat, you can better understand how the C- Health Score was achieved.

FoodFacts.com likes transparency. We like to know what we’re eating and we think our community should as well. The FoodFacts.com Health Score is designed to be a quick read for our community members on the overall nutritional quality of a product. It takes into consideration all applicable attributes for every product in our database. Again, C- isn’t a terrible Score. But when a product contains controversial ingredients (and “Artificial Flavors” is more than one ingredient, even though it doesn’t read that way), it loses points.

For more information on the FoodFacts.com Health Score, click here: http://blog.foodfacts.com/the-facts/our-health-score. And feel free to email us whenever you have a question regarding the information on our site! We’ll always take the time to answer your concerns.

Is “Natural Flavoring” Really Natural?

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Foodfacts.com wants everyone to be aware of what the term “Natural Flavor” means on the side of a products label. We’ve all heard of products being labeled “artificially flavored” or “naturally flavored,” but ever wonder what exactly “natural flavor” means? Is it really natural? What is the difference? Well, the definition of “natural flavor” under the Code of Federal Regulations is: “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” (21CFR101.22). Any other added flavor therefore is artificial. (For the record, any monosodium glutamate, or MSG, used to flavor food must be declared on the label as such). Both artificial and natural flavors are made by “flavorists” in a laboratory by blending either “natural” chemicals or “synthetic” chemicals to create flavorings. Gary Reineccius, a professor in the department of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota says “The distinction in flavorings–natural versus artificial–comes from the source of these identical chemicals and may be likened to saying that an apple sold in a gas station is artificial and one sold from a fruit stand is natural.” He also says, “Artificial flavorings are simpler in composition and potentially safer because only safety-tested components are utilized. Another difference between natural and artificial flavorings is cost. The search for “natural” sources of chemicals often requires that a manufacturer go to great lengths to obtain a given chemical…. Furthermore, the process is costly. This pure natural chemical is identical to the version made in an organic chemist’s laboratory, yet it is much more expensive than the synthetic alternative. Consumers pay a lot for natural flavorings. But these are in fact no better in quality, nor are they safer, than their cost-effective artificial counterparts.”

So what about organic foods? Foods certified by the National Organic Program (NOP) must be grown and processed using organic farming methods without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Organic livestock cannot be fed antibiotics or growth hormones. The term “organic” is not synonymous with “natural.” The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) defines “natural” as “a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural.” Most foods labeled natural are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and heath codes. Steffen Scheide, organic savory flavorist for an ingredients supplier says, “Minor ingredients, such as natural flavors, often cause some confusion with regard to NOP rules. Only ‘natural flavors,’ as defined in the CFR—not artificial or EU-Nature-Identical Flavors—can be considered in the development of organic foods.”

The NOP food labeling standards include a National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Substances. This list has a section on allowed non-synthetic substances, some with restrictions (205.605(a)) for products labeled “organic” or “made with organic ingredients.” Four categories of organic labels were approved by the USDA, based on the percentage of organic content: 100% Organic, Organic, Made with Organic Ingredients, and Less than 70% Organic. Natural flavors, then, can be considered NOP compliant as “organic” when used under the 95% rule (flavorings constitute 5% or less of total ingredients and meet that meet the appropriate requirements) if their organic counterparts are not available. “Made with organic ingredients” can be used on any product with at least 70% organically produced ingredients.”

According to the National List, under section 7CFR205.605(a)(9), non-agricultural, non-organic substances are allowed as ingredients that can be labeled as “organic” or “made with organic,” including “flavors, non-synthetic sources only, and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative.” Other non-synthetic ingredients allowed in this section include: acids such as microbially-produced citric acid, dairy cultures, certain enzymes and non-synthetic yeast that is not grown on petrochemical substrates and sulfite waste liquor.

So, it seems that “natural” might not be so natural and that even some organic foods might contain some of these “natural flavors.” There are still many grey areas for consumers and producers alike. Research is being done and attempts are being made to produce more organic flavorings, but the process is slow. We as consumers need to be more aware of what ingredients go into our foods and also take more initiative to encourage the government’s responsibility to regulate these ingredients and disclose the information to the public.

Article provided by: Phil Lampert