Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Sep 14, 2004 10:47 AM

Natural Flavoring

  • e

Being an older guy, I'm hard to shock anymore. But a friend recently informed me that "natural flavoring" listed on packaged foods is in reality MSG. Personally I have no problem with MSG, but I am aware that many people suffer from negative reations to this substance. I'm amazed that such a deceptive listing is allowed.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Not just MSG.

    There's an ongoing petition to change the current FDA regulation of:

    21 C.F.R. ยง 101.22(h) which states in pertinent part:

    (h) The label of a food to which flavor is added shall declare the flavor in the statement of ingredients in the following way:
    (1) Spice, natural flavor, and artificial flavor may be declared as "spice", "natural flavor", or "artificial flavor", or any combination thereof, as the case may be.


    The term "natural flavor" or "natural flavoring" must be followed by a detailed listing, in brackets, of all sources from which the flavoring is derived, e.g., "natural flavor [from chicken fat and green chiles]." ...

    I believe this petition is being spearheaded by allergy groups, but I don't have specific details.


    4 Replies
    1. re: ab

      Further, as a lactose-intolerant Chowhound, I am always watching for "natural flavors" on the label, b/c I was told by my MD that these almost always contain lactose.

      1. re: folklaur70

        the natural flavoring would have to be near the top of the list of ingredients in order to provide enough lactose to cause a reaction. think of it this way. a few ounces of milk contains perhaps a couple of grams of lactose, certainly less than a teaspoon. so if for example a cookie has salt listed above the aforementioned natural flavoring, then there has to be less than a pinch of it added.

        1. re: chemist

          thanks. good to know. i was just parroting what the Doc's literature told me. frankly, i eat it anyway and find i dont have stomach issues unless i eat a whole lot of items containing natural flavor all in the same day

      2. re: ab

        You may find the URL to an article by Mike Adams illuminating. The man has an axe to grind, and I've been reading his stuff for some time.


      3. MSG is a naturally occurring substance, so the practice isn't deceptive at all.

        Here's what a bit of googling turns up:

        "MSG is found naturally in seaweed and fermented soy products, and especially yeast extracts. Smaller quantities are also present in tomatoes, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese. It is used commercially in much greater concentrations, adding extra flavour to snack foods, frozen dinners, and instant meals such as the seasoning mixtures for instant noodles. Much of the usage is due to the fact that it is cheaper to increase the MSG content than to increase the amount of flavoring ingredient.

        MSG was first isolated in 1908 by Kikune Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University, who successfully crystallized the substance out of seaweed broth. Modern commercial MSG is produced by fermentation of starch, sugar beet, sugar cane, or molasses."


        1. I was told by a vegan friend that the "natural flavoring" in Heinz ketchup is beef blood. Don't know if that's true, it sounds a little too grusome to be accurate.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Murrmaid

            Yes, "natural flavoring" is a really vague reference to what is a long list of chemicals, mixed together to approximate the flavor of real food. Though in "natural flavors" these chemicals are derived from nature (as opposed to chemically derived), the end product is still a manufactured flavor, and can even be the exact same end-chemical product drived through "artifical flavor" methods.

            While I do not know if beef blood is in fact an actual flavoring in Heinz Ketchup, I do know that weird things do pop up in synthesized flavors/colors. For example, the "natural color" in Ocean Spray pink grapefruit juice drinks is Carmine... a color derived from the bright red shells of a specific kind of harvested beetle.

            Guess big business and their bedfellows in the US Government figure what the unwashed masses don't know won't hurt us.

            Mr. Taster


            1. re: Mr. Taster

              there is interesting stuff about this in "fast food nation"

              1. re: Mr. Taster

                Wouldn't beef blood make it impossible to obtain a Kosher certification?

                1. re: sbp

                  Yes it would... blood is always unkosher, no matter what animal it is from.

                  The question is, how deeply do these kosher agencies dig to ensure the kosherness of the items? For example, if the mysterious 'natural flavors' on the ketchup bottle does include an extremely miniscule amount of some powdered processed chemical that at one point 1000 steps ago was taken from a cow, can we trust that the kosher certification agency would find it?

                  Mr. Taster

                  1. re: Mr. Taster

                    I don't see a problem, nor why 'urban legend' flags should be raised.

                    Is someone trying to discredit Heinz?

                    If this is a kosher matter, would it not be better placed on the kosher board?


                    1. re: Bob Moffatt

                      You can check for any number of "food myths" that are similar to the "beef blood in ketchup" rumor. How 'bout cow blood in milk, or deer blood in Jagermeister? Clearly, this is an urban myth.

                      Snopes on odd ingredients:


              2. re: Murrmaid

                Also, check out the link.

                Mr. Taster