Category Archives: natural flavors

Defining Natural Foods … the government seems to need our help

Natural Food DefinitionThe FDA need consumer help to define Natural Foods. really sat down and thought about this. We’ve decided that the government turning to the public for help defining natural foods is a good thing. That’s because it’s our opinion that they have managed to get more than a few things wrong in the world of food when left to their own devises. We’re hopeful that the public will weigh in on this with the same kind of gusto we’ve seen challenge the food industry for making untruthful claims.

The government, or more specifically, The Food and Drug Administration is seeking your input to answer a question: How should the agency define “natural” on food labels?

Disagreement over what “all natural” or “100 percent natural” means has spawned dozens of lawsuits. Consumers have challenged the naturalness of all kinds of food products.

For instance, can a product that contains high fructose corn syrup be labeled as natural? What about products that contain genetically modified ingredients?

The FDA has received three citizen petitions asking for clarification. And, beginning Thursday, the agency will ask us — the public — to weigh in. Comments can be submitted electronically.

Developing a comprehensive, legal definition for this buzzword may be tough. After all, saying something is natural is a little bit like saying something is beautiful. The judgment is in the eye of the beholder.

Ivan Wasserman, a lawyer with the firm Manatt, Phelps & Philips who tracks this issue was asked some questions.

The Food and Drug Administration is asking people to weigh in on a definition for the term “natural” on food labels. Will this process lead to a new rule — a codified, legal definition?

By requesting comments, the FDA is obligated to review them. So, [the agency] has certainly taken on a big project in simply announcing this. But it has not announced that it’s creating a new rule or definition.

The FDA says it has had a long-standing policy on this issue and has “considered the term ‘natural’ to mean … nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source).” So why is there still confusion over what counts as “natural”?

This policy does not address a lot of these newer issues [such as GMO ingredients, or newer ways of processing foods].

If the FDA were to create a more strict, more comprehensive definition, it would give manufacturers a lot more guidance on whether or not they could use the term “natural” on their food products.

There have been a lot of class-action lawsuits brought against companies that have labeled their products as “natural.” What are some of the most interesting examples?

Some of the original cases were brought against companies that included high fructose corn syrup in their products — which is obviously an ingredient that comes from corn, but has been processed. And there have been lawsuits against companies for including genetically modified ingredients in their products.

There are a lot of sides to this argument. And I think at the end of this process if the FDA does create a definition for “natural,” it’s going to be hard to satisfy everyone.

Food companies may also like the looser language since it gives them more wiggle room to use the term “natural.” Can you think of any precedents here — in food law — of creating stricter standards for food labels?

Yes: the organic label. If you see the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] organic seal on a food product, that has a very strict program [and set of rules] on what foods can bear that seal. So there is some precedent. But the term “natural” is a little more vague.

Do you agree that natural is a vague term?

We’ve always had an issue with the government definition for the ingredient “Natural Flavor.” By government definition it refers to a combination of ingredients that are derived from natural sources. There are some problems with that – in the first place that one ingredient, “Natural Flavor” is actually more than one ingredient. You’ll just never know which ingredients that manufacturer used to create the single “Natural Flavor.” You’ll also never know if you’re allergic to any of them … or if the manufacturer chemically processed a substance that was derived from natural sources. So there’s a big gray area concerning whether or not those ingredients are really natural. They may have started out that way, but you have no way of knowing exactly how it was processed to become part of that “Natural Flavor.”

We actually find the government definition of “Natural Flavor” to be vague … not necessarily the word natural. In fact, we’re pretty sure we could come up with a definition – and we’re pretty sure concerned consumers can as well.

Let’s all give the FDA our very specific ideas! We’re the people they need to hear from on this very important issue. So visit this link: and follow the instructions. Let’s tell them that GMO ingredients aren’t natural … that high fructose corn syrup isn’t natural … that natural flavor needs a more sensible definition – and the other actual facts surrounding this issue that in truth really aren’t vague at all!

Just because it isn’t artificial doesn’t mean it’s natural

h-mcdonalds-Iced-Strawberry-Lemonade-SmallThere are millions of thirsty people walking around in the summer who aren’t interested in quenching their thirst with a soda. Some of them are simply looking for a more natural way to quench their thirst in the heat. They’re thinking about beverages like brewed iced tea or fresh made lemonade and then they walk past McDonald’s and they feel like the fast food giant has read their mind.

McDonald’s “hand-shaken” Strawberry Lemonade. Oh, and look at that, they’re promoting that this new beverage contains no artificial flavors. This is great! wants to remind you that the buyer should beware. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with McDonald’s new Strawberry Lemonade.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:             160
Fat:                      0 grams
Sugar:                 37 grams

These nutrition facts are for the medium-sized drink. So you’ll find over 9 teaspoons of sugar in a 17.6 oz. serving. Picture that for a minute. You’ve got a 17.6 oz. beverage in front of you with a teaspoon and a sugar bowl and you’re stirring in more than 9 teaspoons of sugar. The thought probably feels very strange after the second teaspoon is stirred in.

Now what about that great claim McDonald’s is making about not using any artificial flavors?

LEMONADE BASE: Water, Sugar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Lemon Pulp, Natural Flavor (Plant Source). CONTAINS: MILK* STRAWBERRY CONCENTRATE: Water, Strawberry Puree, Sugar, Natural Flavors (Plant, Honey Sources). LEMON WEDGE, STRAWBERRIES: Ingredients: Strawberries, Konjac Flour.

So, there are no artificial flavors used in the recipe. There are, however, natural flavors. Natural flavors are simply derived from “natural sources.” The flavors themselves aren’t necessarily natural. Think about natural vanilla flavor which is derived from the glands that reside by the anus of a beaver. Those beaver glands are considered a natural source, so the product that contains that natural vanilla flavor can claim that it contains no artificial flavors. We still wouldn’t want to eat it, but those are the rules.

The point is McDonald’s new Strawberry Lemonade has a lot of very natural, very flavorful ingredients. But for some reason, McDonald’s doesn’t think they’re flavorful enough and includes Natural Flavors in the recipe. While they can legally claim that they aren’t using artificial flavors, it’s not exactly the most transparent statement ever made.

That iced cold beverage we were craving? We’re going to keep looking. Sorry, McDonald’s.

Where rocky doesn’t meet the road … new Rocky Road Iced Coffee from Dunkin Donuts

1426141519371Rocky road ice cream. Rich chocolate ice cream laden with nuts and marshmallows. For many, this is a comforting childhood memory. So it’s no surprise that Dunkin Donuts saw an opportunity to capitalize on that memory and introduce their new Rocky Road Iced Coffee.

How did Dunkin manage to get the flavors of nuts and marshmallows into coffee? thought that was a great question, so we did a little investigating.

As far as flavored iced coffees are concerned the new Rocky Road Iced Coffee is similar in nutrition facts. Here are the numbers for a medium with cream (the numbers for whole milk and skim milk aren’t yet available on their website):

Calories:             260
Fat:                      12 grams
Sugar:                 36 grams

Still too much sugar going on, but that’s common for a beverage like this one.

Let’s move onto the ingredient list and see if we can find out how these flavors were incorporated into the new coffee:

Brewed 100% Arabica Coffee; Rocky Road Flavored Swirl Syrup: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Sugar, Cocoa processed with alkali, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Salt.

And there you have it. Rocky doesn’t meet the road in the new Dunkin Rocky Road Iced Coffee. It’s all about artificial and natural flavors.

Like many flavored products, Rocky Road Iced coffee isn’t getting its flavor from the actual ingredients that are used to make traditional rocky road ice cream. We like the flavors in our coffee (and our food) to come from what the flavor is supposed to be — in this case nuts and marshmallows. Since they don’t, we won’t be trying it.

PepsiCo introduces Caleb’s Kola craft soda — don’t get too excited!

CalebsWe’re sure you’ve heard that craft sodas (handcrafted carbonated beverages) are the next big thing. The term “craft soda” has somehow developed a halo effect. It’s one of those terms that consumers assume infers a healthier option. And to be fair, a little internet research reveals that some of these sodas actually are better choices. According to most recent reports, craft sodas are flying off grocery store shelves and exciting consumers at restaurants across the country. So it makes sense that mainstream soda manufacturers want to get in on the action — especially since soda sales overall have been dropping pretty quickly here in the U.S.

That brings us to PepsiCo’s latest introduction — Caleb’s Kola craft soda. Sounds like it could be “handcrafted,” doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled though. The only major difference here is that Caleb’s Kola is sweetened with cane sugar. The rest of it really could be Pepsi.

Here are the nutrition facts straight from the new website:

Calories:         110
Sodium:          50 mg
Sugar:             29 grams

How does that stack up against a regular Pepsi?

First, needs to mention that a can of Pepsi offers one 12 ounce serving. A bottle of Caleb’s Kola contains 10 ounces of soda. This smaller bottle does contain less calories per serving. It contains additional sodium. And it does contain what appears to be less sugar. A bottle of Caleb’s Kola contains a little over 7 teaspoons of sugar, while a 12 ounce can of Pepsi contains a little over 10 teaspoons. At the end of the day though, ounce for ounce, they’re fairly similar.

For us, an acceptable soda would feature a completely different ingredient list than sodas from the mainstream brands. As a general statement, sodas are chemical concoctions with absolutely no nutritional value. Many of the ingredients featured are harmful — phosphoric acid, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors. There’s just no way we could ever be fans of a beverage containing these items.

So how does the ingredient list for Caleb’s Kola read?

Sparkling Water, Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavor, Sodium Citrate, Caffeine, Gum Arabic, Citric Acid, Kola Nut Extract can’t be a fan of Caleb’s Kola. The ingredient list isn’t so much different from the non-handcrafted options available.

As far as craft soda is concerned, we’ll keep right on looking. This one isn’t doing anything for us!

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 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, 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, 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.

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

Today 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. likes transparency. We like to know what we’re eating and we think our community should as well. The 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 Health Score, click here: 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.

Natural Vanilla Flavoring from Beavers

We at take much time to research and discover the controversial ingredients present in a great portion of our food supply. Labeling in the US and many other countries continues to stump consumers because there is little specific information regarding the exact information of some ingredients. Often, people are mislead most by the term “natural” when it is present on a nutrition label. However, we want you to think twice before believing these manufacturers, and further educate yourself prior to making food choices.
Natural vanilla flavoring is used as an additive in a variety of products. Ice cream, seltzer waters, yogurt, candy, milk, bread, and many other products commonly use natural vanilla flavoring to mimic the taste of pure vanilla beans. Some may even think that vanilla bean was used to prepare the product, but unfortunately we can never be too sure. In fact, “natural vanilla flavors” is a listing for an additive you may be unaware of, which is Castoreum.
Brown Cow Yogurt at

“When castoreum occurs in a food, it does not have to be listed by its name. It is considered a “natural flavor” and may be so designated on a food package according to the Code of Federal Regulations.”

What is Castoreum?

“Castoreum extract… is a natural product prepared by direct hot-alcohol extraction of castoreum, the dried and macerated castor sac scent glands (and their secretions) from the male or female beaver. It has been used extensively in perfumery and has been added to food as a flavor ingredient for at least 80 years. Both the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regard castoreum extract as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).”

Yes, that definition summarizes that castoreum is derived from glands of a male or female beaver. Although many top manufacturers of flavors and fragrances say castoreum is no longer used as a food additive, few products have found they do contain this ingredient.

Check your labels!