Do you remember years ago the fancy new butter, or should I say margarine touted as being as good as butter, called “I can’t believe it’s not butter”? It supposedly tasted as good as butter, but was originally developed as a low-cost alternative to butter for the food service industry.
I remember when I first started looking into additives. I came across this image in reference to that product, and the suspected links to lung function problems from Diacetyl. Diacetyl is the artificial flavouring used in this product. Interesting read if you have some time, but suffice it to say I don’t want to put diacetyl anywhere near my body.
So I wondered how a new brand I saw in the supermarket recently stacked up. Another spread that is diary free, and suggests that it takes like butter. So what gives it it’s buttery flavour? It’s called Vegan flavour on the packaging. Vegan flavouring? What do vegans taste like? After I stopped laughing, I did wonder, so I did some research. (I promise no vegans were harmed in my research process.)
I could find plenty of sites recommending vegan cheese, even the ultimate guide to vegan cheese; lots of sites talking about natural flavours, and hidden flavours, but no proper definition of vegan flavouring.
The exact definition of natural flavourings & flavours from Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of the USA Code of Federal Regulations 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 or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”
So natural flavours, as well as vegan flavours, can be pretty much anything approved for use in food.
It’s basically impossible to tell from a label what is in natural flavours unless the company has specified it on the label. A few of the vegetarian & vegan-oriented companies are doing this now, but the overwhelming majority of food manufacturers do not.
You might ask “Why do companies hide ingredients under ‘natural flavors’?” It’s considered a way of preserving the product’s identity, it’s uniqueness. Kind of like a “secret recipe” – they worry that if people knew what the flavorings were, then someone would be able to duplicate their product.
Fun fact, did you know this time last year Unilever, the manufacturer of the product, renamed the product to ” Can’t Believe It’s So Good… For Everything”?
So for now it seems we are still in the dark about what is actually used in the flavouring. And just because it says it’s vegan flavouring does not necessarily mean that it contains no animal products. Or that no animal products are used in the production of the flavour. Or that it doesn’t contain Diacetyl.
Just another one to be aware of when choosing food products for your family.