There's that thing, usually the last thing in the list of ingredients, or really close to the end called "natural flavors" or "artificial flavors". Basically it's the thing that helps bring out the flavor of a thing or makes you think you're tasting a particular food.
But what are those mysterious flavors that are hiding in that small two words on your ingredient list?
I found the page that defines the terms, including artificial and natural flavors, spices, artificial and natural colors, and preservatives and if and where they must be labeled, you'd be surprised at how many things don't need to be listed. www.accessdata.fda.gov/s
Basically "natural flavoring" comes from any plant or animal and is a derivative of those items. They are 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. There is a large list: www.accessdata.fda.gov/s
It can not be the direct ingredient Monosodium Glutamate, which needs to be listed in the ingredient list, but may have some other derivative that is a MSG source (see my MSG blog for list of other names for MSG: www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
Natural ingredients may just be from an animals stomach or pancreas, yeah, I know, eww gross, it's called animal lipase and is an enzyme preparation. www.accessdata.fda.gov/s
Or perhaps a little pee in your food? www.accessdata.fda.gov/s
I'm not kidding when I say I found this one in their list, Ox Bile Extract: www.accessdata.fda.gov/s
It's no wonder the manufacturers want to hide their extracts in the words "natural flavorings". Most of the list seems fine, but many of the ingredients would probably not get the public to want to buy their products. I've heard of raspberry flavoring coming from the anal glands of certain animals, and wouldn't put it past them to do that, but unless I'm just not reading the whole list properly I didn't see that particular flavoring, but I can only read so many ingredients from the stomach of a goat before not wanting to eat the rest of the day.
If you're allergic to anything, you need to call the particular manufacturer to find out exactly what their natural flavoring is, or better yet, just don't eat anything with that many ingredients on the list, or even better, know what your food is by being able to look at it at the farmer's market.
Spices are any aromatic vegetable substance in the whole, broken, or ground form, except for those substances which have been traditionally regarded as foods, such as onions, garlic and celery; whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutritional; that is true to name; and from which no portion of any volatile oil or other flavoring principle has been removed. They are going to be the spices you find in the jars in the spice isle of your supermarket, but you don't know which ones will be in their mixture.
Artificial flavors are any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof. They are basically chemical compounds that taste like the natural source, derived from a chemical that is found in the original source, such as Octyl Acetate (CH3COOC8H17) is a fundamental component in orange flavor. They are a basic chemical compound and made in a lab.
When you get vague terms like "artificial and natural flavoring" you just never know what you're getting in your foods. It takes time to call each manufacturer and you're likely to get someone who really doesn't know what's in the flavors either since you're just talking to a customer service representative who didn't put the food together.
Although I took most of my information directly from the FDA website today, here are some other links I found:
List of natural flavorings used in Japan: www.ffcr.or.jp/zaidan/FF
Definition of Urea: medical-dictionary.thefr
Is our food really safe? Hiding where honey is coming from, banned honey in other countries being sold by the barrel to the U.S.: www.foodsafetynews.com/2
Today's Holidays: Don't Fry Day (the clouds are making their way in, but I did take advantage of the sun this morning), Hug Your Cat Day (doesn't work if you're allergic), International Tiara Day (we should always feel like royalty), Brother's Day (I hope a brother in law counts?) and National Escargot Day (not my cup of tea, but if you like that kind of thing, go for it!).