These ingredient appears in the nutrition labels of all kinds of foods. But what, exactly, is the difference between them? It turns out the biggest distinction may be in the marketing.
ick up any packaged, processed food, and there’s a decent chance that one of its listed ingredients will be “natural flavor.” The ingredient sounds good, particularly in contrast to another common and mysterious ingredient, “artificial flavor.” But what exactly does natural flavor mean? When a reader posed the question, I contacted nutritionists and flavorists — yes, that’s a profession — to find out.
“Basically, if something is a natural flavor, it’s derived from some natural source,” explains Charles Platkin, director of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines “natural flavor” as oils, resins or other extracts derived from natural sources like plants, meat or seafood. Processes like heating or fermentation are used to extract the flavor. The function of these products is flavoring, not to add any nutritional content.