So this has been a touchy subject with me for a long time and it gets back to my “five ingredients or less” rule. Not only are the fewer ingredients the better, but you also want to know what those ingredients are. And I don’t know what “natural flavors” means — and that is the goal of the food industry.
So I just quit drinking my favorite hot cinnamon tea everyday for several reasons, but one is because it contains “natural flavors”. Another reason is because I was drinking too much (like 15-20 bags a day) and it was turning my teeth brown. But it wasn’t organic and it has natural flavors so I gave it up. One thing you will quickly realize about me is I usually take things to the extreme — like buying cases of tea at a time and all but ODing on it. Don’t get me wrong, hot tea can be great for you — but sometimes I have a problem with doing things in moderation.
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration:
“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.”
So what does that really mean?
It just means that the flavor had to have originated from a “natural organism”. But not all natural flavors are created equal or naturally. They can contain emulsifiers, solvents and preservatives. Just one natural flavor can contain between 50 to 100 ingredients!!! So do you really know what “natural strawberry flavor” is? No. It could contain 100 different ingredients! Yikes.
Oh and I almost forgot about MSG. Monosodium Glutamate, which is linked to migraines, fatigue, food cravings, depression and obesity can be disguised on labels as “natural flavorings”.
Sadly there are no regulations when it comes to “natural flavors” and they are currently the fourth most common ingredient listed on food labels.
Remember when LaCroix made headlines for having cockroach insecticide in its sparkling water? Yea, that was part of their “natural flavoring”.