What are 'natural flavours' and why do we avoid them?

Natural flavours sound a lot better than artificial flavours, right? But are they really better for us?

We know artificial flavours are made from non-food sources, but we don't actually know what the term “natural flavours” means. 

The simple fact that McDonald’s says its “natural beef flavour” is derived from wheat and milk should make you wonder.

If you cook food at home, you probably have 10 maybe even 20 different herbs and spices that you flavour your food with, but processed food doesn’t just rely on those simple ingredients for its flavour. 'Natural flavour' is in almost everything these days and according to the Environment Working Group (EWG) they are the fourth most-common ingredient used in processed food today (after salt, water & sugar).

Manufacturers add natural flavours: to extend flavour shelf-life, because it’s cheaper than using the real ingredients and because ‘natural flavours' sounds healthier. When consumers see the word ’natural’ on a product they form a positive opinion about that product, yet the word natural is unregulated and has NO formal legal definition - it’s really just another “health-washing” marketing term.

Natural flavours might start from a natural food source but they undergo a huge amount of processing and manipulation that results in a product that is very different from the original, and far from natural. They’re still engineered in a lab by a food chemist, just like the artificial ones and can contain anywhere from 5-100 different ingredients and chemicals inc. solvents, emulsifiers and preservatives - all of which fall into the category of ‘incidental additives’ and are not required to be disclosed by food manufacturers. This is because natural flavours are NOT subject to the same laws as food additives, even though they could contain the same additives. The EWG reports that natural flavours are chemical mixtures which are often more complex than artificial flavours. Crazy, right? Natural flavour chemical composition is also protected by IP laws and too complex to fit on a food label.

Real food contains real flavour and that’s why you’ll never see any ‘natural flavours’ in Well Fed Kitchen snacks. This is a conscious decision we’ve made to help reduce our children’s chemical load, because their health is worth it.

We only flavour our snacks with whole-food ingredients, like: the Natural Vanilla Store organically-grown whole vanilla bean powder and organic true cinnamon.