If you have ever looked at the ingredients on food packaging, as most people (especially vegans) have, you may have come across ‘natural flavours’ as a listed ingredient. What are natural flavours? What determines if a flavouring is natural or not and what are it’s origins? Is natural flavouring vegan?
Surprisingly, after spending days on research for this post, we almost came up empty handed or were fronted with very non-specific information, which raised alarm bells. Read on below to see what we discovered.
What is flavouring and why is it added in our food? Food flavouring is any substance that has been added to food to enhance the taste. How is that for vague!
Natural Flavour vs Artificial Flavour
We searched the Food Standards Australia New Zealand and Federal Register of Legislation sites to try to find out more about Australian laws regarding natural and artificial flavours and surprisingly came up empty handed. We couldn’t find anything specifically related to what is considered a natural flavour! The only Australian institutional or Government website that we could find specific information regarding flavouring was the Australian Institute of Food Science & Technology, which defined natural flavouring as a substance obtained from plant or animal origin that may or may not be processed and artificial/synthetic flavouring as substances obtained from chemical synthesis. However, even they note that the Food Standards Australia New Zealand do not follow the same definitions.
One great article that we did come across and had to mention was on the fedup.com.au website and actually details what is considered “natural” and what is considered “artificial”, together with case studies and general additive information. It is definitely worth a read.
Don’t be tricked by food that has ‘natural flavours’. There are no clear standards in Australia which dictate what is considered natural and, as a special concern for vegans, there is no way to know whether these flavours have come from animal origins. It seems that natural flavouring (well, flavouring in general) has become an extremely grey area in food labelling in Australia.
Companies are not required by law to disclose any further information and the definitions are so vague regarding what is considered flavouring that it becomes difficult to determine what is actually in our food!
Next time you’re out shopping, look out for vague labelling such as ‘natural flavours’ and avoid them if you’re vegan or double check with the manufacturer first as there are no guarantees that it does not include substances derived from animals.
Or, come check out our marketplace and rest assured that all products are definitely vegan friendly!
Have you been tricked by food labelling in the past? Tell us about it in the comments below.