Yeah, you read that right. The scientific name is castoreum. It’s a bitter, smelly, orange-brown substance that is secreted from a beaver’s anal gland.
You may balk and claim that you’d never drink such a thing. Besides, why would Nabisco or the like use castoreum? Well, food scientists incorporate it into recipes for its vanilla or raspberry taste profile.
Unfortunately, mass food manufacturers are waaaaay to cheap to actually pay for – you know – real vanilla or real raspberries. But, if you eat anything with a vanilla or raspberry taste that lists “Natural Flavorings” on it’s nutrient label…then there’s a good chance you just ate this delightful treat.
The US FDA claims that castoreum is generally regarded as a safe additive to food and points to the fact that it has been used in foods and perfumes for the last 80 years.
Considering some of the other chemicals and compounds they regard as safe, that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
A bit of a skeptic at heart, when I first read the research behind the beaver juice I didn’t believe it. I mean, if you’re like me the first red flag to this claim is the logistical problem.
I mean, I’ve never heard of beaver juice farms, have you? So, how do these big manufacturers get all this castoreum? And I mean come on, it doesn’t seem like an easy task to extract it – so how do they get it out in the first place? Do they take it out on a nice dinner first…or what?
Well, although information is highly protected (for obvious PR reasons) the most logical claim is that dead beavers, of which there are thousands every year are sold to processing facilities not just for their pelts, but also their anal gland juice.
What Kinds of Foods?
What types of food would be prime candidates for this ingredient. The obvious answer would be anything that has a vanilla or raspberry taste. However, due to its consistency (like molasses) and taste and smell profile most speculate that packaged snack treats, cookies, and desserts are the most likely foods that include this anal juice.
So, next time you chow down on a delicious pack of Oreo’s, or pack your kiddoes a special Chip’s Ahoy surprise know that you may be packing an extra special surprise for them, too.
But Really, What’s the Big Deal?
If the FDA says its generally safe and no testing shows that it is toxic what’s the big deal. Hmm…How about deception and disregard for the end consumer.
Is butt juice natural…Yes I guess technically it is from nature. But, is it natural that I would eat it? No, I don’t think anyone would say that it is.
Regardless, it is my right as a consumer to know what is going into the food that I’m eating. Don’t blanketly cover all ingredients that at one time came from nature under the umbrella of “Natural Ingredients”.
Rat brains, Cow Dung, Cat Eyeballs…all of those are natural ingredients…are those included, too and we just haven’t learned about it? Makes you think. What else is Big Food hiding from us?