What you need to know about “Natural Flavors!” Are they good or bad?

My clients know they’ve been deceived by the food industry.

They want to know all the labeling tactics so they can buy clean, healthy products for themselves and their families.

First, know these companies don’t sell food, they sell commodities.  They’re producing goods for profit, not for human nourishment.

Labels tell one story – the story the manufacturer wants us to believe.

The tactics to keep us buying continuously evolve – in terms of what goes in the package and how it’s labeled.

It’s ALL TOO common today!  Packaged foods contain chemicals, additives and preservatives not listed on the label! 

This labeling practice is known as “Industry Standard.”  If everyone does it, the manufacturers don’t have to label it!   [For specifics, you can refer to USDA reg 21 CFR 101.100 which addresses labeling exemptions dealing with incidental food additives.[1]]

We already learned that most all packaged foods are highly refined[2]and denatured[3].

They have replaced traditional foods and cooking methods, disrupt our gut microbiome and contribute to the myriad of chronic health issues we all have – diabetes, obesity, inflammation, autoimmune conditions, GI disorders, food sensitivities, allergies (including seasonal), high blood pressure, depression, Parkinsons…

On top of this we have to be concerned about hidden ingredients lurking in all these packaged foods. 

These undisclosed ingredients compound our health issues.

Although it’s not possible to know all that’s in our food, we can start with what we do know.

Look for the term “Natural Flavor(s).”

The term is a camouflage for thousands of harmful ingredients, including msg, chemicals that mimic the flavor enhancer msg, lactic acid, modified cornstarch (a thickener that may use not just corn but wheat, potato, rice, or tapioca[4])…

With companies whose sole purpose is to develop flavor and fragrance enhancers, the list is ever increasing.

Food products are flavored to decrease cost and increase sales.

They make packaged foods taste mouthwatering and fresh, and add a bolder taste.

But the taste is made to be short-lived so that we eat more (much to the detriment of our waistline and overall health).

In a 2011 interview with Morley Safer of 60 Minutes, two flavor scientists from Givaudan said that one of their goals was making food addictive.[5]

Furthermore, when foods are pasteurized “for safety,” nutrients and freshness are lost. Synthetic flavor enhancers are added to trick our taste buds and smell receptors into believing we are drinking fresh orange juice when in reality it’s old and has lost many of its nutrients.[6]

Flavors are complex mixtures.  They may contain more than 100 chemicals, including solvents, emulsifiers, flavor modifiers and preservatives.[7]

The Food and Drug Administration defines natural flavors as substances derived from animals or plants and artificial flavors as those that are not.  In reality, natural and artificial flavors aren’t much different because “natural flavors” can contain synthetic chemicals[8]!

The natural or artificial emulsifiers, solvents and preservatives in flavor mixtures are considered “incidental additives.”  Hence, the manufacturer doesn’t need to disclose them on food labels.[9]

Also, flavor extracts and food ingredients that have been derived from genetically engineered crops may be labeled “natural” because the FDA has not fully defined the term “natural.”

When you see the word “flavor” on a food label, you have no clue what chemicals, carrier solvents or preservatives have been added to the food. This should be of great concern for ALL of us, and especially for people with food allergies and sensitivities.

One positive note, for “organic foods,” the natural flavor must be produced without synthetic solvents, carriers and artificial preservatives.[10]

In “foods made with organic ingredients,” food processors may use synthetic extraction or carrier solvents.

*   *  *  *  *

I know this information is daunting. 

BUT don’t throw your hands up in despair. 

Start by being a label reader.  Read the ingredient list.  In addition to looking for the many names of sugar, the industrial seed oils, and the words you cannot pronounce, start to look for the term “natural flavor(s).”

Know that foods that list natural flavor(s) in the ingredient list are not something you want long term.

In order to not get overwhelmed, pick one product that you would typically buy that has “natural flavor” listed in the ingredient.

Ask yourself, “Is this something I can learn to make myself?  Or that I can simply do without?”

Get really good at swapping out that one product or doing without that one product.  And then try something else.

Maybe it’s making your own dressing.

Or maybe it’s switching out the lemonade with artificial sweetener and natural flavors like the one of my recent RESTART participants loved.  She thought it would be hard to give up.  But having learned these sweeteners and “natural flavors” were toxic chemicals, she gave it a try.  Now she drinks water with lemon and sea salt, and absolutely loves it.  AND she no longer craves sweets and has lost several pounds.  Just by starting with one simple change.

You can wean off “foods with labels” to “foods without labels.”

Start where you are at.  And just make one simple change.  Get really good at that before trying to make other changes.

Are you and your family not worth this investment?!

More on hidden ingredients and what we can do to stay safe in future blogs.

Peace and grace,


[1] https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/antifreeze-in-your-ice-cream/

[2] Some of the nutrients have been removed.  And in most cases the shelf life has been extended.

[3] When a food is denatured, its nutrients are either destroyed, made harder to absorb, or made toxic or rancid through processes such as pasteurization and irradiation.

[4] Plotner, Becky Hidden Food Ingredients: The ‘Industry Standard’ Scam that Touches Everyone. Wise Traditions Summer 2021; 22(2): 35-41.https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/hidden-food-ingredients-in-industry-standard/

[5] https://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/natural-vs-artificial-flavors/

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] “Natural flavor mixtures often include amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, ethyl butyrate, various aliphatic acid ester, ethyl acetate, ethyl valerate, ethyl isovalerate, ethyl pelargonate, vanillin, lemon essential oil, citral, citronellal, rose absolute, geraninol, orange essential oil, geranium essential oil, aldehyde C10, ethyl heptanoate, acetaldehyde, aldehydes C14 and C16, styralyl acetate, dimethyl benzyl carbinyl acetate, benzyl formate, phenyl ethyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl isovalerate, anise essential oil, esters of colophony and benzaldehyde and may contain terpenyl isovalerate, isopropyl isovalerate, citronellyl isovalerate, geranyl isovalerate, benzyl isovalerate, cinnamyl formate, isopropyl valerate, butyl valerate, methyl allyl butyrate and potentially the synthetic ingredients cyclohexyl acetate, allyl butyrate, allyl cyclohexylvalerate, allyl isovalerate and cyclohexyl butyrate.”  https://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/natural-vs-artificial-flavors/

[9] Food manufacturers can use a natural solvent such as ethanol in their flavors, but the FDA also permits them to use synthetic solvents such as propylene glycol (aka: antifreeze).

[10] Specific additives not allowed in natural flavor in organic foods include propylene glycol, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, mono- and di-glycerides, benzoic acid, polysorbate 80, medium chain triglycerides, BHT, BHA, triacetin.

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1 thought on “What you need to know about “Natural Flavors!” Are they good or bad?”

  1. Very humorous the photo of the woman looking at the food label with a magnifying glass! Thanks for pointing out that they deliberately make the flavors to be short lived so that you end up craving more nonstop.

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Enjoy these favorite dishes. 
Simple, nutrient dense recipes that will leave you feeling well-nourished and deeply satisfied.
Plus monthly REAL food tips & inspiration right to your inbox!
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