[image via The Organic Authority]
Food science defines natural by what it is not: the FDA “has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”
This non-definition gives food companies plenty of room to tout “All Natural” on their packages even with ingredients that have been hydrolised, distilled and emulsified to taste completely different. Both natural and artificial flavors are chemicals – the distinction is whether they are completely synthetic or first derived from a natural source.
Once again, we learn why reading the ingredients and not just the nutrition facts is one of the most important parts of healthy eating. Next time you pick up a pre-packaged food whose cleverly marketed label boasts something along the lines of “100% All Natural,” check the ingredients list. If it includes the words “Natural Flavoring” chances are it’s made of one or more chemically altered substances, like “…shellac, the resinous secretion of female lac bugs used to glaze donuts and make shiny candy shells…” or “…beavers’ anal gland secretions [used to] manufacture…vanilla and raspberry flavors.”