Setting the Record Straight: Artificial vs. Natural Flavouring

Photo by gifrancis, via Flickr (CC)

We wanted to know what the dangers were with artificial flavours, so we started investigating. We were surprised by what we found out. So, before you draw devil horns on that packaged food that contains artificial flavours, here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Natural and artificial flavours are made from the same chemical compounds: the difference is if those compounds come directly from the source (distilled directly from a fruit, for example) or synthetic (combined by scientists to taste like the fruit).

• Artificial flavours are less expensive and more stable than natural ones, which is why you’ll see them in many inexpensive packaged goods and why they’re used so widely.
• Some argue that artificial flavours are actually safer than natural ones, because they will only contain safety-tested components and will not include any slightly toxic chemicals that one might come across in nature.
• A disappointment with artificial flavours may be the taste: some of them simply don’t taste very good.
• The bigger concern may be the overall quality of foods that contain artificial flavours: watch for foods that are heavy on artificial colours, artificial sweeteners or monosodium glutamate.
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