Category Archive for: ‘Food Safey’

What is “Natural” flavoring?

The definition of natural flavor under the Code of Federal Regulations 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” (21CFR101.22).

Certainly a mouthful!

In other words, it could include beef by-products, but not necessarily.

Any other added flavor therefore is artificial. (For the record, any monosodium glutamate, or MSG, used to flavor food must be declared on the label as such). Both artificial and natural flavors are made by “flavorists” in a laboratory by blending either “natural” chemicals or “synthetic” chemicals to create flavorings.

Gary Reineccius, a professor in the department of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota, says that  the distinction between natural and artificial flavorings is based on the source of these often identical chemicals. In fact, he says, “artificial flavorings are simpler in composition and potentially safer because only safety-tested components are utilized.

“Another difference,” says Reineccius, “is cost. The search for natural sources of chemicals often requires that a manufacturer go to great lengths to obtain a given chemical…. This natural chemical is identical to the version made in an organic chemist’s laboratory, yet it is much more expensive than the synthetic alternative.”

End result: We shoppers wind up paying the price for natural flavorings, and according to Reineccius, these are in fact no better in quality, nor are they safer, than their cost-effective artificial counterparts.

So what about the flavorings used in organic foods? Foods certified by the National Organic Program (NOP) must be grown and processed using organic farming methods without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Organic livestock cannot be fed antibiotics or growth hormones. The term “organic” is not synonymous with “natural.” The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) defines “natural” as “a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural.” Most foods labeled natural, including its flavorings, are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and heath codes.

The NOP food labeling standards (effective October of 2002) include a National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Substances. This list has a section on allowed non-synthetic substances, some with restrictions (205.605(a)) for products labeled “organic” or “made with organic ingredients.” Four categories of organic labels were approved by the USDA, based on the percentage of organic content: 100% Organic, Organic, Made with Organic Ingredients, and Less than 70% Organic. Natural flavors, then, can be considered NOP compliant as “organic” when used under the 95% rule (flavorings constitute 5% or less of total ingredients and meet that meet the appropriate requirements) if their organic counterparts are not available. “Made with organic ingredients” can be used on any product with at least 70% organically produced ingredients.”

According to the National List, under section 7CFR205.605(a)(9), non-agricultural, non-organic substances are allowed as ingredients that can be labeled as “organic” or “made with organic,” including “flavors, non-synthetic sources only, and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative.” Other non-synthetic ingredients allowed in this section include: acids such as microbiologically-produced citric acid, dairy cultures, certain enzymes and non-synthetic yeast that is not grown on petrochemical substrates and sulfite waste liquor.

So, the bottom line is that you have to read those labels carefully. “Natural” might not be so natural, and that even some organic foods might contain some of these “natural flavors.” There are still many grey areas for consumers and producers alike.

Research is being done and attempts are being made to produce more organic flavorings, but the process is slow. We as consumers need to be more aware of what ingredients go into our foods and also demand that the government sticks to its responsibility to regulate these ingredients and make sure that the information is discloses on EVERY label.

Phil Lempert is Food Editor of the “Today” show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to If he uses your question in one of his columns, it may be edited for length and clarity. (Your full name and e-mail address will not be used.) You can also visit his website

Some FactsBelow iRed 40Allura Red AC (also known as Red 40) is a red azo dye that goes by several names including: Allura Red, Food Red 17, C.I. 16035, FD&C Red 40, 2-naphthalenesulfonic acid, 6-hydroxy-5-((2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo)-, disodium salt, and disodium 6-hydroxy-5-((2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo)-2-naphthalene-sulfonate. It is used as a food dye and has the E number E129. Allura Red AC was originally introduced in the United States as a replacement for the use of amaranth as a food coloring.

It has the appearance of a dark red powder. It usually comes as a sodium salt but can also be used as both calcium and potassium salts. It is soluble in water. In water solution, its maximum absorbance lies at about 504 nm. Its melting point is at 300 degrees Celsius.

Allura Red AC is one of many High Production Volume Chemicals. Some manufacturers of Allura Red AC include: Asim Products, Sanchi Chemicals Pvt. Ltd., and Warner-Jenkinson Europe Ltd.

Red AC was originally manufactured from coal tar but is now mostly made from petroleum. Despite the popular misconception, Allura Red AC is not derived from any insect, unlike the food coloring carmine which is derived from the female cochineal insect.

Related dyes include Sunset Yellow FCF, Scarlet GN, tartrazine, and Orange B.

Allura Red AC has fewer health risks associated with it in comparison to other azo dyes. However, some studies have found some adverse health effects that may be associated with the dye.

Potential behavioral effects:

On 6 September 2007, the British Food Standards Agency revised advice on certain artificial food additives, including E129. Professor Jim Stevenson from Southampton University, and author of the report, said:

“This has been a major study investigating an important area of research. The results suggest that consumption of certain mixtures of artificial food colors and sodium benzoate preservative are associated with increases in hyperactive behavior in children.”

“However, parents should not think that simply taking these additives out of food will prevent hyperactive disorders. We know that many other influences are at work but this at least is one a child can avoid.”

The following additives were tested in the research:

  • Sunset yellow (E110) (FD&C Yellow #6) – Coloring found in squashes
  • Carmoisine (E122) – Red coloring in jellies
  • Tartrazine (E102) (FD&C Yellow #5) – Yellow coloring
  • Ponceau 4R (E124) – Red coloring
  • Sodium benzoate (E211) – Preservative
  • Quinoline yellow (E104) – Food coloring
  • Allura red AC (E129) (FD&C Red #40) – Orange / red food dye


The study found that increased levels of hyperactivity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and lower IQs were observed in children. Based on the study, the UK agency advises that cutting certain artificial colors (Sunset Yellow, Quinoline Yellow WS, Carmoisine, Allura Red, Tartrazine, and Ponceau 4R) from hyperactive children’s diets might have some beneficial effects.

On 10 April 2008, the Foods Standard Agency called for a voluntary removal of the colors (but not sodium benzoate) by 2009. In addition, it recommended that there should be action to phase them out in food and drink in the European Union (EU) over a specified period. The European Food Safety Authority was requested by the UK FSA to review the study, however, and concluded that the study provided only limited evidence for a small, statistically significant effect.[citation needed] On the basis of this, EFSA concluded that the acceptable daily intake of the colors analyzed in the Southampton study did not need to be altered.

UK ministers have agreed that the six colorings will be phased out by 2009.

Want to read more – Click here for the full article on WikipediA



Blue No. 2

FD&C Blue No. 2 is also called indigo blue or indigotine. It is a synthetic version of indigo, a dye naturally produced from plants. Indigotine, on the other hand, is a petroleum product, with the chemical formula C16H10N2O2. It is used in baked goods, cereals, ice cream, snacks, candies and cherries.


In September 2007, a study reported by D. McCann and colleagues in the journal “The Lancet” linked artificial colorings, including Blue No. 2, to hyperactivity. Nearly 300 children in the study were given a beverage with artificial colors and a preservative. Drinking the beverage resulted in increased hyperactivity in the children, which the researchers attributed to the artificial coloring or the preservative or both. As a result, one candy company, Nestlé-Rowntree, stopped selling one of its candies with a blue shell until it replaced the artificial color with a new blue color made from spirulina, a blue-green algae.


In a group of studies reviewed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Blue No. 2 did not affect reproduction or cause birth defects in rabbits or rats. However, male rats in one group that received a high dosage of Blue No. 2 had statistically significant increases in brain cancers and other abnormal cell development. No human studies have been reported, and experts disagree about the safety of Blue No. 2, according to the CSPI. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that FD&C blue no. 2 is safe for use in food and supplements, according to the Code of Federal Regulations. The CSPI asserts that Blue No. 2 is not safe for human consumption. Since it adds nothing to the nutritive value of food and evidence for its safety is questionable, CSPI recommends it not be used in foods.




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