The Real Deal About Artificial And Natural Flavours

Have you looked at the ingredients on a food label lately? How about a “processed” food label; like famous brands of cookies, cereals, or junky snack foods?

Do you have those ingredients in your house? Do you even know what all of those ingredients are?

There are a ton of artificial, chemical, "junky" ingredients in foods these days. If you see an ingredient called "artificial flavour," what exactly is it? And what about "natural flavour"? That's healthy, right?

For the most part, it’s a secret! Seriously! Big food companies don’t want their proprietary flavours to be known, so they’re allowed to say “artificial flavour” or "natural flavour" and leave the details out.

That alone gets me upset.

But what makes me more upset is what these flavours represent when they're in your food. I’m going to give you the real deal below.

And let you in on their secret ... sometimes natural flavouring has MORE chemicals than artificial flavouring.

Why use "artificial flavours' in a product?

When you make an apple muffin at home, what gives it the apple flavour?

Apples of course! Like real, whole, chopped or shredded apples or applesauce.

But, let’s say you’re a big food company and you’re making thousands of apple muffins every day. In a factory. On an assembly line.

How would you process the huge amount of apples that are to be chopped, grated or made into applesauce? Would you have a separate "Apple Room" where all the apple processing happens? What if one batch is slightly riper, or tastes slightly different from the rest? Will your customers notice a different taste?

Apples are perishable - they go bad. So how would you guarantee the apples won't go bad? Remember the saying "it only takes one bad apple to ruin the whole bunch?" I think the same applies to clementines (there is always one at the bottom of the box that spreads like wildfire).

And what if you can have an apple flavour that tastes better than using real apples? Something that makes people want to keep buying them every week. It's true - some of the artificial flavours are engineered to give an even better taste than the real food.

Companies will often opt for the easier and more profitable option like artificial flavours.

Artificial flavours last longer and will be virtually identical batch after batch. In our apple muffin example, artificial flavours used to make an apple muffin are ready to go, so you don't need to peel, cut, or worry about apples going brown, or that they're not tasting "appley" enough.

Oh, and it’s way cheaper than using real, whole apples.

Pro Tip: If the package says "flavoured" in the description, then the flavour is artificial. For example, "apple muffin" contains at least some apple. But, "apple flavoured muffin" contains artificial flavour and no apple.

Safety of artificial flavours

While there are some flavours banned for use in many countries, other countries allow them.

There is an approved list of flavours that are accepted to be safe, and are used by the food industry. They are considered GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe.”

Even if they are 100% safe to ingest, the mere fact that an artificial flavour is in food makes it an artificial food. It's not a real, whole food. Having an artificial flavour as an ingredient almost defines that food to be a processed, "food-like product." Sometimes referred to as "junk."

Artificial flavours in food indicate that the food, regardless of the marketing, or health claims, is not a healthy choice.

What are natural flavours? Those are better right?

The term "natural flavours" doesn't really have a definition other than it must originate from a plant or animal. Artificial flavours, on the other hand, are 100% chemically created.

However, natural flavours can contain over 100 chemicals (known as additives) and are created by chemists called "flavourists." What those additive are ... well, companies are not required to say if they are natural or synthetic. They just need to confirm that the original flavour came from a plant or animal.

This means, that companies can include genetically modified foods and chemicals and still call it natural.

Apple. Tree.

Some popular natural flavours:

  • Ameyl Acetate (banana flavour)

  • Citral (citrus/orange)

  • Benzaldehyde (almond flavour)

  • Castoreum (vanilla ... originally from beaver secretions - EEEK)

Some other considerations:

  • Vegetarians or vegans may be unknowingly consuming animal products in natural flavouring

  • Natural flavours can sometimes include more chemicals than artificial flavours

  • Natural flavours can be problematic for those with allergies ... what are they including?


Big food companies use artificial flavours to reduce costs, make the manufacturing process simpler, reduce waste and even enhance flavour way beyond what the natural ingredient would taste like.

They are not added to improve the “healthfulness” or nutrition of the food.

Artificial flavours in the ingredient list indicate that the food is not going to optimize your health.

Natural flavours must be derived from a plant or animal source. However, chemists can add over 100 artificial chemicals to get the flavour "just right."



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DISCLAIMER: Please read the following disclaimer carefully. Vanessa Bond is not a doctor and does not diagnose or treat disease. The information on this website is not intended to replace the advice or recommendations of your primary health care provider and is not intended as medical advice. The information is intended as a complement to existing therapy - not as a substitute. The focus is to educate on how to make better decisions in order to build and maintain better nutritional balance. She and this web site encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.


© 2023 by Vanessa Bond, Bond With Health Inc.