Whole Life Magazine

October/November 2014

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Page 25 of 43

I was an atypical American kid. I never ate a Happy Meal. My mother made "hot chocolate" out of carob powder and honey—a combination that preju- diced me against both those ingredients for life. Cake was for birthdays and made from scratch with butter, fl our and real vanilla extract. All because my mother had a near-religious aversion to additives. She read labels before it was fashionable, rejecting anything with the taint of artifi cial fl avor. So I ate tofu chow mein instead of Top Ramen and reached adulthood without having tasted a Twinkie. As a grown-up, I carried on believing that natural is good, artifi cial is bad, and anything purchased in a shop that smells of hemp and essential oils is by defi nition better for you than its supermarket equivalent. A er all, the words "natural" and "artifi cial" carry moral as well as linguistic weight. We seek out natural fi ber, cosmetics and emotions. "Artifi cial" describes things that are false, deceptive, even harmful. Why should food fl avors be any diff erent? WHAT'S IN A FLAVOR? W hen it comes to fl avor there's a big diff erence between how we use the word "natural" and its legal defi nition. Natural fl avoring in food is defi ned by the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Code of Federal Regulations as follows: " e term 'natural fl avor' or 'natural fl avoring' means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the fl avoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegeta- ble juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose signifi cant function in food is fl avoring rather than nutritional." What this means in plain English, says na- turopathic doctor and nutrition expert Samia McCully, ND, is that: "A natural fl avor may be bad for you and you would never know because [manufacturers] are not obligated to list ingredients or methods of production." One notable example of a natural fl avor from an unexpected source is castoreum ex- tract—used in some vanilla fl avorings—which is squeezed from glands in a beaver's backside. However, it falls under the legal defi nition of natural and is listed as a Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) fl avor. DETERMINING A SAFE FLAVOR T he Generally Regarded As Safe certifi cation decides what fl avors are allowed in food and is administered by the Flavor and Extract Manufacturer's Association (FEMA)—an industry body founded in 1909. FEMA's members include food and beverage conglomerates such as Kra , Nestle, Kellogg, Coca-Cola, Wrigley and the Hershey Company; as well as fl avor manufacturers and suppliers. Most people think the FDA approves food additives, but John Hallagan, senior advisor and general counsel for FEMA, explains that GRAS is not the same as FDA-approved. Rather, FEMA works with the FDA and has legal authority to declare fl avors safe. "We share our work with the FDA," says Hallagan. "If they want to object to the determination of safety they can." So at an oversight level, the FDA has veto-power over new fl avors but in practical terms, the decision is made by FEMA's panel, which consists of seven academics (in- cluding two MD/PhDs) whose expertise includes biochemistry, organic chemistry and toxicology. e panel meets three times a year to review new fl avors and is gov- products thereof, whose signifi cant function in food is fl avoring rather than nutritional." What this means in plain English, says na- turopathic doctor and nutrition expert Samia "Natural" doesn't promise safety or taste By Cila Warncke Food Label Secrets Secrets 26 wholelifetimesmagazine.com

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