When we buy any packaged food we read the nutrition label… that’s a must. There is no telling what is hidden in a manufactured food to make it taste better, smell better, look better and feel better.
Did you know that there is an industry devoted to creating flavors, smells, textures and colors? Most of the chemical plants that makeup the “flavor industry” are located in New Jersey. Their job is to create food additives (and, incidentally, the scent of some of the finest perfumes). So when you buy foods like Pop Tarts, Bac-Os, Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, Coke and thousands of other manufactured foods you are tasting and smelling and looking at chemicals that please your senses. Since the food manufacturers have to list ingredients they just call these chemical additives “natural flavor” or “artificial flavor”.
A book called “Food Additives: What’s Safe and What’s Not” classifies “natural flavor” and “artificial flavor” as “unsafe or very poorly tested”. However, the Food and Drug Administration does not require flavor companies to disclose the ingredients (this is a very secretive industry) if the individual ingredients are classified as “GRAS” (generally regarded as safe).* Hmmm… there seems to be a difference of opinion about these additives. It is possible for allergens to be present in a natural flavor and the only way you could know is to call the manufacturer and ask.
“Natural flavor” explains why fast food, and many things in the grocery store, tastes so good. Is it good for us? Does it supply nutritious building material for our cells? Well… this industry is so secretive that only the chemists know for sure but my guess would be that these undisclosed ingredients are probably not helping our bodies to maintain health… these additives add flavor but not nutrition.
So… be mindful of the number of products that have good ingredients but include “natural flavor”.