Do You Know Nutrition: Unusual ingredient enhances raspberry flavor

By Phylis Canion
July 10, 2012 at 2:10 a.m.
Updated July 11, 2012 at 2:11 a.m.

I enjoy the flavor of raspberry, but notice an ingredient called castoreum in so many raspberry products. Even the candy I bought says it has castoreum in it. What is castoreum? I know what the others ingredients are.

I hope you still enjoy your candy after I tell you what castoreum is.

Castoreum is actually a bitter, strong smelling, creamy orange substance from beaver anal glands and is used to enhance the flavor of raspberry candies. It is also used in perfumes and cigarettes and if you are thinking about changing to chewing gum, well, castoreum is also in some chewing gums.

Oh, by the way, castoreum has been used in the food industry for the past 80 years.

I am a bit leery when I read a product ingredient label and it states "natural flavorings." What does natural flavoring really mean, or is there even a definition? Is that wording just an umbrella to cover up some nasty ingredients? How do we know?

The exact definition of natural flavors from the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 21, Section 101.22) is as follows: "The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf, similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."

I recommend calling the manufacturer of the product and have them disclose the "natural" ingredients. If there are artificial flavors, that must be listed separately and the above does not apply to artificial. According to Gary Reineccius, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, the distinction between natural and artificial flavorings is based on the original source of these often identical chemicals.

Natural flavorings just means that before the source went through many chemical processes, it originally came from a natural source, as opposed to artificial, which has no natural origin.

Thought for the week: Health is not valued until sickness comes.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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