In the world of food labels and ingredients, few terms are as mysterious as "natural flavors." It's a phrase that conjures images of pure, wholesome ingredients sourced directly from nature. However, behind this seemingly innocent label lies a complex world of regulatory ambiguities.
At Kekoa Foods, transparency and quality are at the core of our values, which is why we take a firm stance against the use of "natural flavors." Let’s delve into the uncertainty surrounding this term, explore why Europe is increasingly skeptical of US imports containing "natural flavors," and explain why we choose a different path for our products.
The Ambiguity of "Natural Flavors"
"Natural flavors" is a term that appears safe on ingredient lists but lacks transparency. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the use of this term, its definition leaves much to the imagination.
It encompasses a wide range of substances, including essential oils, extracts, and flavor compounds derived from natural sources. However, it's crucial to recognize that these substances may undergo various processes and may even contain additives like carrier solvents and preservatives.
GRAS: Generally Recognized As Safe
Many "natural flavors" are labeled GRAS, which stands for "Generally Recognized As Safe." While this designation implies safety, it doesn't necessarily provide clarity on the exact nature of the ingredients. This ambiguity is a primary reason why Europe is becoming increasingly cautious about accepting US imports, as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) demands a higher level of transparency regarding food ingredients.
One of the less-known aspects of "natural flavors" is the potential presence of chemicals such as propylene glycol and monosodium glutamate (MSG). These compounds can be used in the production of "natural flavors" and may not align with consumers' expectations of pure and natural ingredients.
The federal definition of "natural flavors" doesn't exclude the possibility of pesticides, animal derivatives, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) having been part of the raw material pipeline. This lack of clarity can be disconcerting for consumers who seek to make informed choices about what they put into their bodies.
The Allergy Factor
For those who have allergies, the lack of full transparency in a food item’s flavors can have disastrous outcomes. Food allergies are a serious and often life-threatening concern for millions of people worldwide. Allergic reactions can range from mild discomfort to severe anaphylaxis, a condition that requires immediate medical attention and can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Given the gravity of the situation, individuals with allergies have no choice but to be meticulous about what they consume. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, natural flavors can be derived from ingredients such as meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products or their fermentation products which should be of concern to people with food allergies when they see natural flavors included in ingredient panels even if the allergen foods themselves aren’t listed.
The Petroleum Factor
One notable distinction between "natural flavors" and their artificial counterparts is the absence of petroleum-derived chemicals in the former. "Artificial flavors" may contain chemicals derived from petroleum, while "natural flavors" should not. However, this is often the only clear distinction between the two.
Where Kekoa Foods Stands
At Kekoa Foods, we believe that transparency is essential in providing nourishing and wholesome options for your baby. We firmly stand behind not using "natural flavors" in our baby food puree products. Instead, we are committed to using real, whole ingredients with clear sourcing and processing methods. We believe that you should know exactly what you're feeding your child, and that's why we opt for genuine ingredients that are free from obscurity.
Using the term "natural flavors" may seem harmless, but it conceals a world of complexity and ambiguity. Kekoa Foods believes that you deserve better. We're committed to providing you with baby food puree options that are made with integrity, transparency, and a genuine dedication to your child's health and well-being.
Our organic baby food products are crafted with care, using real ingredients you can trust. Because at Kekoa Foods, we stand for purity, not ambiguity.
Food Business News. (2023) One Company’s Reasons For Not Using ‘Natural Flavors’ https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/24441-one-companys-reasons-for-not-using-natural-flavors
U.S. Food & Drug. Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) https://www.fda.gov/food/food-ingredients-packaging/generally-recognized-safe-gras
Natural Library of Medicine (2017) The “Natural” vs. “Natural Flavors” Conflict in Food Labeling: A Regulatory Viewpoint https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29140655/