Healthfulness of Natural vs Artificial Flavors

Originally Published: January 14, 2018
Last Updated: February 4, 2021

(Posted January 14, 2018) A feature on National Public Radio (NPR) by Natalie Jacewicz explored whether natural flavors are healthier than artificial flavors. “The U.S. FDA defines ‘Natural Flavor’ as oils, resins or other extracts derived from natural sources, (such as) plants, meat or seafood,” says Jacewicz. “The function of these products is flavoring, not to add any nutritional content,” she adds.

Natural flavors and artificial flavors are essentially made the same way, but from different ingredients – natural flavors by extracting chemicals from natural ingredients and artificial flavors from synthetic ingredients. As such, natural and artificial flavors are not that different from one another, agree the experts interviewed, including: Gary Reineccius, Flavor Chemist, University of Minnesota; Chef Bruce Mattel, Associate Dean of Culinary Arts, The Culinary Institute of America; and Charles Platkin, Director, New York City Policy Center, Hunter College.

Marketing influences whether natural or artificial flavors are used, notes Platkin. “Consumers may believe products with natural flavors are healthier, though they’re nutritionally no different from those made with artificial flavors,” Platkin adds. The choice of flavor type also comes down to availability, cost and flexibility, notes Reineccius. Mixing a flavor in a lab, such as grape flavor, provides the flexibility and consistency naturally-sourced ingredients wouldn’t have.

Still, since the amounts of flavor used are minute, they do not contribute to the product’s nutritional profile. Reineccius suggests consumers buy products with flavor profiles they like, whether it contains a natural versus an artificial flavor.[NOTE: Gary Reineccius has spoken at several of Global Food Forums’ conferences including its 2013 Clean Label Conference. The summary of his presentation can be found at: “Flavorings – Clean and Friendly.”

News Source: Minnesota Pubic Radio Posted November 3, 2017