You may have noticed that the majority of food labels you buy contain “natural flavors” in the ingredient list. In fact, the Environmental Working Group found in its research of 80,000 food products that only salt, water and sugar are listed more often than natural flavors on food labels. Ever wonder what this means? I mean it’s both so obvious and not vague at all right?
So, the big question – is it safe to consume a large amount of natural flavors? Here’s our take – and this info helps you make more educated decisions moving forward.
While there is usually only a very small amount of chemical flavoring in each food and therefore not a huge health risk, there are still many chemicals that are not approved by the FDA. The thing is – we don’t really know the impact that years of consuming these additives will have on our bodies due to the lack of research.
Here’s what gets me fired up – food companies do not need to disclose the ingredients of a natural flavor if all of the ingredients (which can be up to 100 in one flavor) fall into the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) category. Repeat that phrase over in your head – generally recognized as safe. Does that sound safe and/or reassuring to you? It doesn’t to me! It sounds straight up fishy.
Just because something was made with natural flavoring doesn’t mean that that food is nutritious or chemical-free. The term “natural” is poorly regulated. Therefore manufacturers may use it even when their products are full of chemicals and preservatives — not at all what we think of as natural. So I urge you, keep your guard up when you see terms like “all natural” and “naturally flavored” slapped onto food labels.
Just because foods have natural flavors in them doesn’t mean you have to 100% avoid them and drive yourself crazy. Disclaimer: natural flavors are in so many food products. What’s more important is focusing on shopping smart and limiting your exposure when you can. This means reading food labels and ingredient lists, and choose foods in their purest form!