The War Against Meaning Continues: How Big Food Uses ‘Natural’ Flavorings To Trick You Into Eating Garbage Food
“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.” –George Orwell
George Orwell’s prescient thoughts ring true today–so true in fact that the man would probably stand in stark bewilderment at how insincerity and obfuscation have come to dominate the language of the 21st century.
And nowhere is this paucity of truth more apparent than in advertising, that land where truth goes not to die outright, but rather to be slowly smothered in layer upon layer of bullshit, like a prehistoric animal sinking slowly into a tar pit.
We spoke recently on OST of how food labeling in general has taken an ugly turn for the dishonest, but there is one area in particular that deserves its own closer look: “natural flavorings.”
This wholesome-sounding phrase, which food manufacturers and their vile minions in advertising play up enthusiastically evokes images of rolling, sun-kissed meadows, fresh strawberries plucked with drops of dew still clinging to their ripe, red skin, the smell of honey taken straight from the hive–etc., etc., ad infinitum. You get the picture.
Thing is, your “naturally flavored” food product is as likely to contain chemicals squeezed from beaver anuses and squashed insects as it is strawberries.
That’s right, your “natural” vanilla flavoring, derived from castoreum, once belonged to some poor beaver, who used his or her castor sacs to scent-mark territory–sacs that reside adjacent to the animal’s anal glands.
Delicious. Another vanilla cappuccino, please. And don’t skimp on the beaver farts.
And Natural Red 4 is a dye that comes from the crushed carcasses of scale insects.
But wait, you say, these actually ARE natural. Gross, yes–and certainly not vegan–but natural.
Well, yes and no. FDA regulations allow substances derived from things like beaver asses and insects to be called natural, but they didn’t go directly from a beaver trap or a flyswatter into your yogurt.
Those flavor molecules are pulled out of those substances by the busy little beavers working in big food’s labs–and they don’t do that without using plenty of solvents, preservatives and other ingredients that don’t always show up on food packaging labels.
As long as those solvents and other chemicals are on the FDA’s Generally Recognized As Safe list–a name clearly not designed to inspire confidence–they’re considered A-Ok.
So as with all things food-related these days, it pays to take a second look at the label before you tuck in. In fact, the whole additive/preservative/flavorings whether natural or not matrix is one giant, very good argument for eating natural, organic, whole foods that you prepare yourself whenever possible.
Even if it takes a few minutes longer, isn’t it worth it not to be eating beaver butts and bugs?