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Quick Summary Points

  • Natural flavours are flavouring agents that add flavour to food or products to enhance the taste
  • Natural flavours must be approved by Food Drugs & Administration (FDA) for it to be deemed safe to use
  • Natural flavour is derived from organic matter and artificial flavour is derived from synthetic materials
  • Food Drugs & Administration (FDA) regards that flavour ingredients are safe whether it be natural or artificial

Natural Flavours is a common term you find in many products but it is not a term that all are familiar with. Product developers today almost need to be experienced or trained in the nutritional properties and flavour dynamics of a wide range of vitamins and supplements. As the functional food and health on the rise, delivering nutritional compounds in palatable products to challenge product developers and experts.

The market for supplements have seen strong growth, reflecting increasing consumer concerns about the adverse effects of busy lifestyles and stress on health. When it comes to optimising health and diet, consumers are increasingly using supplements for additional health support. Very few know what natural flavours actually are, where they come from and more importantly the question we pose to readers are natural flavours safe to consume? 

What are Natural Flavours?

Natural flavours are flavouring agents that add flavour to foods or products to enhance the taste. Natural flavours are extracted from plants and animals for the purpose of creating flavour enhancers to be used in processed foods. According to the Food Drugs & Administration (FDA), if the food does not contain any added colour, artificial flavour or synthetic substances it is considered a ‘natural flavour.1 It has also been found that a natural flavour may have started out as coming from a natural source, but by the time it’s been processed there’s not much difference between natural and artificial flavouring.2

Where do Natural Flavours Come From?

You can find natural flavours almost everywhere in your foods or its source of origin. In fact, it can be made up of 50 or more ingredients that originate from the natural source but with added preservatives and solvents added together.3 The Fragrance Association of Australia and New Zealand (FFAANZ) outlines that some natural flavours can be plant or animal derived so for vegetarians or vegans this may not be suitable for consumption.

Are Natural Colours Safe?

In most cases, natural flavours are safe to consume but it is important to be cautious and check where it has been sourced from. One of the most common examples is sweetener sucralose.  According to the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, studies have shown that sucralose can cause damaging problems including reduction of good gut bacteria and can alter your bodies’ insulin response and blood sugar levels. This might be something to look out for.

Under the new regulations, flavours must be declared in the ingredient list as either ‘flavour’ or ‘flavouring’, or a specific name or description of the flavouring such as ‘chocolate’. However, there’s no mention of natural or artificial which leaves consumers confused. Having said that, natural flavours do need to be approved and regarded as safe before the product is formulated.4

Natural Flavours vs. Artificial Flavours

It is said that though natural flavours may sound better than any alternative chemical, it turns out that they are not too different from artificial flavours.  The major differentiation between the two is that natural flavours come from natural sources and then purified and extracted and added back into the product where as artificial flavours are made by humans either synthetically or purified in a lab. So it all comes down to the origin of the source.

Quite often you will see sweeteners added in foods or supplements, it is important to point out that sweeteners are not considered as natural flavours because their primary purpose is nutritional so they must be listed on a product’s ingredient panel. Similarly, artificial flavours are used to prevent the product from spoilage.

Final Verdict 

The historical controversy over the definition of what constitutes a natural product or ingredient has been reinforced, partly due to consumer confusion over how to interpret label declarations. With this in mind, the use of newer processing and formulation technologies can broaden the use of natural flavouring options, will hopefully render the choices of consumers to make an easier decision.

References

1.  "What Is The Meaning Of 'Natural' On The Label Of Food?". Fda.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 June 2017. 

2. Josephson, Meg. "What 'Natural Flavours' Really Means". Business Insider Australia. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 June 2017. 

3. Smith, Belinda. "5 Secrets Of Natural Flavours". The Root Cause. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 June 2017.

4. "Artificial Vs Natural Flavours | Blog". True Protein. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 June 2017.

5. "Article: Nutritional Products Flavours And Flavour Masking -- June 2008". Preparedfoods.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 June 2017.

6. "2017 Ingredients For Health Guide: Form Function: Nutritional Foods And Drinks". Preparedfoods.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 June 2017.

7. Franziska Spritzler, CDE. "Natural Flavours: Should You Eat Them?". Authority Nr, for Life Daily Burn. "What Are Natural Flavours, Really?". CNN. N.p., 2017. 

8. Amanda Woerner, for Life Daily Burn. "What Are Natural Flavours, Really?". CNN. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 June 2017.

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