It seems that you can’t turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper lately without reading something about genetically engineered foods or misleading labeling on our food products. Givaudan is the largest flavor manufacturing company in the world. They pride themselves on making flavors that are irresistible – starting from Mother Nature, taking something as simple as a strawberry and then destroying everything Mother Nature intended for it. One of their employees is so happy that she can chemically reproduce hundreds of variations of raspberry flavor and smiling when she says she can make whisky taste oakier with one of her concoctions. The whole place is “cloaked in secrecy” because they don’t want you to know what they are selling you in their “natural” flavor (the words you will see on a back of food packaging) or who they are selling to. There is nothing pure about the flavors they produce – strawberry and vanilla can come from a “beaver’s backside,” according to the Givaudan scientists.
Most of us know artificial flavors derived from petroleum aren’t good for us, but the with the words “natural flavor” food chemists and companies can put whatever they want in your food that is “generally regarded as safe” including excitotoxins. Natural flavor can legally contain natural occurring “glutamate” bi-products like MSG – which are known excitotoxins. These excitotoxins are some of the chemicals that cause your taste buds to experience irresistibility when it comes to food. Ever wonder why you can’t just eat one chip? Or one cookie? Or why you remember a taste of a product so distinctly and crave uncontrollably? Excitotoxins can be to blame. (Food Babe)
Flavorings are often complex mixtures of natural and man-made substances. The Food and Drug Administration evaluates flavoring ingredients to determine whether they are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) to be eaten. Even if they are safe to eat, these ingredients might still be harmful to breathe in the forms and amounts to which food and chemical industry workers may be exposed. Given the complexity of flavorings mixtures, and the lack of health data for many of the component materials, identifying the relative contributions of individual substances to causing flavoring-induced lung disease is a difficult challenge. (CDC Centers for Disease)
The fact is that most processed foods contain flavoring additives that have been made in giant chemical factories. There are more than two thousand approved flavoring chemicals that don’t have to be described on food labels because they are considered to be closely guarded trade secrets. When the word ‘flavors’ appears on an ingredient list, it means those flavors have been man-made in a laboratory even if this could be described as natural by the definition above. Natural flavors, nature identical flavors and artificial flavors could contain exactly the same chemicals although consumers can’t tell what’s in them because of the secrecy surrounding flavor formulas. As author Eric Schlosser says in his bestselling book Fast Food Nation: Natural and artificial flavors are now manufactured at the same chemical plants, places that few people would associate with Mother Nature. Calling any of these flavors “natural” requires a flexible attitude toward the English language and a fair amount of irony.
Why am I making such a big deal of food flavorings? Food flavorings are mostly what are being used to flavor our e-cigarette juices. Instead of the 4000 chemicals used in cigarettes to keep us addicted, now there are the 2000 chemicals used in the flavorings to keep us addicted, and many of them may take a toll on our health over time.
The e-cigarette gives us an opportunity to replace smoking with a much better habit, but it is only as good (or bad) as what you use in it. So, how do we insure that what we are buying is safe? Whether it is food or e-liquids, go back to the basics. Buy organic, organic compliant, kosher or pharmaceutical grade. Read labels and ask questions. I am thrilled to see more and more companies in our industry offering organic flavorings. They are willing to pay more to bring you a safer product.
I would love to hear from you. What are your questions or concerns that you would like to see addressed in this column? Got any juicy news that you would like to share? Leave a comment, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you health and joy… Judy, Proprietress Guilty Pleasures Organics LLC