“Natural vs. Artificial Flavors: Which is Better ?”
Let’s start with a wordy definition. Natural and artificial flavors are defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as follows: “A natural flavor 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.” Artificial flavors do not meet this definition. But, there is little substantive difference in the chemical compositions of natural and artificial flavorings. The distinction in flavorings (natural versus artificial) comes from the source of these identical chemicals. Artificial flavorings are simpler in composition. The reason that artificial colors and flavors are used is because when foods are heavily processed to withstand long periods on a grocer’s shelf, they become devoid of nutrients, color and flavor, so they must be added back. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is hidden in processed food and has more than 25 other different names. It meets the definition of natural flavors because it comes from glutamate which is found in nature, but MSG is still a known excitotoxin.