That might not be vanilla you’re tasting in your “naturally flavored” food. It’s possible that it could come from a place far worse than a laboratory.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, some manufactures are using the anal secretions of beavers as a substitute for artificial vanilla flavoring. Um, gross!
A beaver’s anal glands produce a chemical called Castoreum, which can be used as a food additive. While it may be gross, the FDA says it’s GRAS or “generally recognized as safe.” You’ll never see it listed on a food label, though. It’s hidden under the “natural flavors” catch-all term.
The story about Castoreum’s use as a faux-nilla flavoring caught some attention back in 2011 when chef Jamie Oliver mentioned it during an appearance on David Letterman. Even the Internet guardians of truth, Snopes.com, declared the tale of the beaver’s tail-ends to be true.
The AJC goes on to list foods and beverages believed to use the Castoreum extract. Those being alcoholic beverages, baked goods, gelatins/puddings, ice cream, soft candy, chewing gum and more.