Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Natural Flavors: the best stuff on earth

The other day I was enjoying an overpriced Snapple Raspberry Tea with my overpriced sandwich from the overpriced cafeteria near my office. I noticed the byline on the Snapple label proudly displayed their familiar slogan "Made from the best stuff on Earth" I wondered what 'best stuff' they were referring to. To me, the best stuff on earth is the other blogger, family, friends and DVR. I quickly grew concerned that Snapple was brewing with sun dried bits of my immediate family and unwatched episodes of Parks and Recreation.

The other side of the label explains what Snapple means by best stuff:
  • Filtered water
  • Sugar
  • Citric acid
  • Tea
  • Natural Flavors
That ingredient list is nice, but the proclamation of 'the best' is more than a bit of a stretch. While contemplating their version of the best stuff, the ingredient 'natural flavors' was pause for concern. What is a natural flavor? It is on almost every ingredient list in the grocery store. One would assume a natural flavor is a flavor that occurs naturally in nature. To an uneducated consumer like myself that could mean anything from whale oil to cockroach excrement extract. What natural flavor made my tea taste like raspberry? I would hope a raspberry extract of some kind.  As with every question these days I looked to the internet and government for answers. defines 'natural flavors' as:

"Natural flavoring substances and natural adjuvants may be safely used in food in accordance with the following conditions.

(a) They are used in the minimum quantity required to produce their intended physical or technical effect and in accordance with all the principles of good manufacturing practice.

(b) In the appropriate forms (plant parts, fluid and solid extracts, concentrates, absolutes, oils, gums, balsams, resins, oleoresins, waxes, and distillates) they consist of one or more of the following, used alone or in combination with flavoring substances and adjuvants generally recognized as safe in food, previously sanctioned for such use, or regulated in any section of this part."

The full list of FDA approved natural flavors at the bottom of the page includes dozens of substances from aloe to yucca and weird stuff like moss, pine needles, twigs and wood.

Raspberry (in any form of the Rubus subgenus) is not even on the list of approved natural flavors, the closest flavor is blackberry bark. I wonder what proprietary cocktail of natural flavors produces Snapple's version of raspberry. If Snapple is truely using the best stuff on earth, why are they using this umbrella term natural flavors and only providing an incomplete listing of their best stuff.... I guess it's up to the consumer to guess what the rest of the best stuff is.

 Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, volume 3 

Common nameScientific nameLimitations
AloeAloe perryiBaker,A. barbadensisMill.,A. feroxMill., and hybrids of this sp. withA. africanaMill. andA. spicataBaker
Althea root and flowersAlthea officinalisL
Amyris (West Indian sandalwood)Amyris balsamiferaL
Angola weedRoccella fuciformisAchIn alcoholic beverages only
Arnica flowersArnica montanaL.,A. fulgensPursh,A. sororiaGreene, orA. cordifoliaHookerDo.
Artemisia (wormwood)ArtemisiasppFinished food thujone free1
Artichoke leavesCynara scolymusLIn alcoholic beverages only
Benzoin resinStyrax benzoinDryander,S. paralleloneurusPerkins,S. tonkinensis(Pierre) Craib ex Hartwich, or other spp. of the SectionAnthostyraxof the genusStyrax
Blackberry barkRubus,SectionEubatus
Boldus (boldo) leavesPeumus boldusMolDo.
Boronia flowersBoronia megastigmaNees
Bryonia rootBryonia albaL., orB. diociaJacqDo.
Buchu leavesBarosma betulinaBartl. et Wendl.,B. crenulata(L.) Hook. orB. serratifoliaWilld
Buckbean leavesMenyanthes trifoliataLDo.
CajeputMelaleuca leucadendronL. and otherMelaleucaspp
Calumba rootJateorhiza palmata(Lam.) MiersDo.
Camphor treeCinnamomum camphora(L.) Nees et EbermSafrole free
Cascara sagradaRhamnus purshianaDC
Cassie flowersAcacia farnesiana(L.) Willd
Castor oilRicinus communisL
Catechu, blackAcacia catechuWilld
Cedar, white (aborvitae), leaves and twigsThuja occidentalisLFinished food thujone free1
CentuaryCentaurium umbellatumGilibIn alcoholic beverages only
Cherry pitsPrunus aviumL. orP. cerasusLNot to exceed 25 p.p.m. prussic acid
Cherry-laurel leavesPrunus laurocerasusLDo.
Chestnut leavesCastanea dentata(Marsh.) Borkh
ChirataSwertia chirataBuch.-HamIn alcoholic beverages only
Cinchona, red, barkCinchona succirubraPav. or its hybridsIn beverages only; not more than 83 p.p.m. total cinchona alkaloids in finished beverage
Cinchona, yellow, barkCinchona ledgerianaMoens,C. calisayaWedd., or hybrids of these with other spp. ofCinchona.Do.
CopaibaSouth American spp. ofCopaiferaL
Cork, oakQuercus suberL., orQ. occidentalisF. GayIn alcoholic beverages only
CostmaryChrysanthemum balsamitaLDo.
Costus rootSaussurea lappaClarke
CubebPiper cubebaL. f
Currant, black, buds and leavesRibes nigrumL
Damiana leavesTurnera diffusaWilld
DavanaArtemisia pallensWall
Dill, IndianAnethum sowaRoxb. (Peucedanum graveolensBenth et Hook.,Anethum graveolensL.)
Dittany (fraxinella) rootsDictamnus albusLDo.
Dittany of CreteOriganum dictamnusL
Dragon's blood (dracorubin)Daemonoropsspp
Elder tree leavesSambucus nigraLIn alcoholic beverages only; not to exceed 25 p.p.m. prussic acid in the flavor
Elecampane rhizome and rootsInula heleniumLIn alcoholic beverages only
ElemiCanarium communeL. orC. luzonicumMiq
ErigeronErigeron canadensisL
Eucalyptus globulus leavesEucalyptus globulusLabill
Fir ("pine") needles and twigsAbies sibiricaLedeb.,A. albaMill.,A. sachalinesisMasters orA. mayrianaMiyabe et Kudo
Fir, balsam, needles and twigsAbies balsamea(L.) Mill
Galanga, greaterAlpinia galangaWilldDo.
GalbanumFerula galbanifluaBoiss. et Buhse and otherFerulaspp
Gambir (catechu, pale)Uncaria gambirRoxb
Genet flowersSpartium junceumL
Gentian rhizome and rootsGentiana luteaL
Gentian, stemlessGentiana acaulisLDo.
Germander, chamaedrysTeucrium chamaedrysLDo.
Germander, goldenTeucrium poliumLDo.
GuaiacGuaiacum officinaleL.,G. santumL.,Bulnesia sarmientiLor
GuaranaPaullinia cupanaHBK
Haw, black, barkViburnum prunifoliumL
Hemlock needles and twigsTsuga canadensis(L.) Carr. orT. heterophylla(Raf.) Sarg
Hyacinth flowersHyacinthus orientalisL
Iceland mossCetraria islandicaAchDo.
ImperatoriaPeucedanum ostruthium(L.). Koch (Imperatoria ostruthiumL.)
IvaAchillea moschataJacqDo.
Lemon-verbenaLippia citriodoraHBKDo.
Linaloe woodBursera delpechianaPoiss. and otherBurseraspp
Linden leavesTilliasppDo.
LovageLevisticum officinaleKoch
Lungmoss (lungwort)Sticta pulmonaceaAch
Maidenhair fernAdiantum capillus-venerisLDo.
Maple, mountainAcer spicatumLam
Mimosa (black wattle) flowersAcacia decurrensWilld. var.dealbata
Mullein flowersVerbascum phlomoidesL. orV. thapsiformeSchradDo.
MyrrhCommiphora molmolEngl.,C. abyssinica(Berg) Engl., or otherCommiphoraspp
Myrtle leavesMyrtus communisLDo.
Oak, English, woodQuercus roburLDo.
Oak, white, chipsQuercus albaL
Oak mossEvernia prunastri(L.) Ach.,E. furfuracea(L.) Mann, and other lichensFinished food thujone free1
OlibanumBoswellia carteriBirdw. and otherBoswelliaspp
Opopanax (bisabolmyrrh)Opopanax chironiumKoch (true opopanax) ofCommiphora erythraeaEngl. var.Llabrescens
Orris rootIris germanicaL. (including its varietyflorentinaDykes) andI. pallidaLam
PansyViola tricolorLIn alcoholic beverages only
Passion flowerPassiflora incarnataL
PatchoulyPogostemon cablinBenth. andP. heyneanusBenth
Peach leavesPrunus persica(L.) BatschIn alcoholic beverages only; not to exceed 25 p.p.m. prussic acid in the flavor
Pennyroyal, AmericanHedeoma pulegioides(L.) Pers
Pennyroyal, EuropeanMentha pulegiumL
Pine, dwarf, needles and twigsPinus mugoTurra var.pumilio(Haenke) Zenari
Pine, Scotch, needles and twigsPinus sylvestrisL
Pine, white, barkPinus strobusLIn alcoholic beverages only
Pine, white oilPinus palustrisMill., and otherPinusspp
Poplar budsPopulus balsamiferaL. (P. tacamahaccaMill.),P. candicansAit., orP. nigraLDo.
QuassiaPicrasma excelsa(Sw.) Planch, orQuassia amaraL
Quebracho barkAspidosperma quebracho-blancoSchlecht, or (Quebrachia lorentzii(Griseb))Schinopsis lorentzii(Griseb.) Engl.
Quillaia (soapbark)Quillaja saponariaMol
Red saunders (red sandalwood)Pterocarpus san alinusLIn alcoholic beverages only
Rhatany rootKrameria triandraRuiz et Pav. orK. argenteaMart
Rhubarb, garden rootRheum rhaponticumLDo.
Rhubarb rootRheum officinaleBaill.,R. palmatumL., or other spp. (exceptingR. rhaponticumL.) or hybrids ofRheumgrown in China
RoselleHibiscus sabdariffaLDo.
Rosin (colophony)Pinus palustrisMill., and otherPinussppDo.
St. Johnswort leaves, flowers, and caulisHypericum perforatumLHypericin-free alcohol distillate form only; in alcoholic beverages only
Sandalwood, white (yellow, or East Indian)Santalum albumL
SandaracTetraclinis articulata(Vahl.), MastIn alcoholic beverages only
SarsaparillaSmilax aristolochiaefoliaMill., (Mexican sarsaparilla),S. regeliiKillip et Morton (Honduras sarsaparilla),S. febrifugaKunth (Ecuadorean sarsaparilla), or undeterminedSmilaxspp. (Ecuadorean or Central American sarsaparilla)
Sassafras leavesSassafras albidum(Nutt.) NeesSafrole free
Senna, AlexandriaCassia acutifoliaDelile
Serpentaria (Virginia snakeroot)Aristolochia serpentariaLIn alcoholic beverages only
Simaruba barkSimaruba amaraAublDo.
Snakeroot, Canadian (wild ginger)Asarum canadenseL
Spruce needles and twigsPicea glauca(Moench) Voss orP. mariana(Mill.) BSP
Storax (styrax)Liquidambar orientalisMill. orL. styracifluaL
Tagetes (marigold)Tagetes patulaL.,T. erectaL., orT. minutaL. (T. glanduliferaSchrank)As oil only
TansyTanacetum vulgareLIn alcoholic beverages only; finished alcoholic beverage thujone free1
Thistle, blessed (holy thistle)Onicus benedictusLIn alcoholic beverages only
Thymus capitatus(Spanish "origanum")Thymus capitatusHoffmg. et Link
ToluMyroxylon balsamum(L.) Harms
TurpentinePinus palustrisMill. and otherPinusspp. which yield terpene oils exclusively
Valerian rhizome and rootsValeriana officinalisL
VeronicaVeronica officinalisLDo.
Vervain, EuropeanVerbena officinalisLDo.
VetiverVetiveria zizanioidesStapfDo.
Violet, SwissViola calcarataL
Walnut husks (hulls), leaves, and green nutsJuglans nigraL. orJ. regiaL
Woodruff, sweetAsperula odorataLIn alcoholic beverages only
YarrowAchillea millefoliumLIn beverages only; finished beverage thujone free1
Yerba santaEriodictyon californicum(Hook, et Arn.) Torr
Yucca, Joshua-treeYucca brevifoliaEngelm
Yucca, MohaveYucca schidigeraRoezl ex Ortgies (Y. mohavensisSarg.)


  1. Watch food babes video on natural flavors. Its probably a disgusting part of a beaver. I forgot about this video, I just bought a snapple raspberry iced tea but read the label and saw natural flavors. Ugh.