Natural v. Artificial Flavors
By: Jonathan Lichtenfeld
In recent years there has been a major spike in trends regarding health and fitness that has been making people seriously consider what goes into making the food they consume. One such debated topic is the use of natural and artificial flavors in food, specifically what they are and which is really better to use in products. Natural flavors are just what they sound like: they come from natural sources. Artificial flavors are flavors that mimic natural flavors but are manmade through a chemical process.
Most people would consider natural flavors to be the most sensible option because the consumer knows exactly what they are receiving. This, however, is not entirely true. Just because a can of lemon-lime seltzer says "natural flavors" on it, that does not mean the company squeezed lemon and lime juice right into the can. To add natural flavors, some companies extract the flavor from the fruit and then purify and concentrate it.[i]Some processing is used when it says natural flavors on products. When companies jump through these kinds of loopholes, the consumer really does not know how they processed the flavor and what they could potentially be adding. This is a necessary evil in order to ensure a uniform product across the country and the world, since flavors could change intensity depending on how the fruit was grown, the degree of ripeness, etc. There is also the problem that for natural flavors we need to have the physical fruit. In times of geopolitical crisis or farming instability when there are shortages of these products, companies could not make their products if they only used 100 percent actual fruit.
Artificial flavors can provide a sustainable option for companies that require large amounts of a specific ingredient. Being manmade, they can be produced in the same facility that makes the desired product, so this eliminates the expense of buying and shipping large amounts of fruits or vegetables. The company can then potentially make their product cheaper, allowing more people to afford it. Considering our ever-increasing population, more food can be funneled into consumption. Of course, there are downsides to this option. For instance, when something is manmade in a chemical process, the question is raised whether it is truly healthy for our bodies or not. Humans have survived off natural sources for thousands of years and the concept of processing food is relatively new (the past few hundred years). There is no telling how all this processed food will affect our bodies years from now and how it will affect our children and their children generations from now.
People have a tendency to blame the companies for producing products that are unnatural. If you are trying to lose weight or eat healthier, always read the labels of the products you wish to consume and make an educated decision based on that. There is always a healthy alternative.
[i] Woerner, Amanda. "What Are Natural Flavors, Really?" CNN. Cable News Network, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 22 May 2016.