Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jan 31, 2011 03:54 PM

"Natural butter flavor" -- what is it, really?

Every time I buy cookies or some other packaged baked good that contains this, they are nasty. Too rich, almost rancid tasting. But I love natural, I love butter, and I love flavor. So what's "natural butter flavor" made of and why do I hate it?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Isolda: Most "butter flavoring" is a compound called diacetyl. It is made by big chemical companies like Chemtura (really, that's their name), and can cause a terrible lung disease if inhaled. Chemtura just agreed to pay $50 million to settle 347 claims against it. See,

    8 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      I'm pretty sure this is not it. There's a difference between the "butter flavoring" you'd find in microwave popcorn, and the "natural butter flavor" found in all-natural commercially produced baked goods, such as certain Pepperidge Farm cookies. I don't eat most processed foods unless they claim to be all natural (exception: Doritos), but am finding that anything with natural butter flavor, obviously added to enhance the taste of the butter that's in there, doesn't do it for me at all.

      1. re: Isolda

        Hahaha! Everything I try to eat is all natural, too. Except Doritos, of course!

      2. re: kaleokahu

        2 addenda:

        1. If there's a connection between diacetyl and lung disease it's for people exposed to it on a constant basis, not occasional consumption.

        2. The article you cited notes that it was discontinued as a popcorn flavoring additive in 2006.

        1. re: ferret

          Actually, there's more to the story: Certainly, most consumers wouldn't have cooked and eaten enough diacetyl flavored popcorn to have bronchitis on the level of workers in the plant. But, while this blogger is rather political in his assessment, there are points to be made about the safety of some food additives. Ultimately, in the market, we must often make decisions for ourselves in the absence of adequate regulation to protect public health. It's smart to educate oneself.

          1. re: amyzan

            Let's not forget that diacetyl is a naturally-occurring flavor component of butter, as well. If you're going to avoid it in flavorings then you might as well skip butter too.

            1. re: ferret

              ferret: "...then you might as well skip butter too." And certain white wines subjected to malolactic fermentation.

              But I'll take what naturally occurs in butter over what Chemtura is synthesizing every day.

              1. re: ferret

                I'd rather eat kombu kelp than ingest monosodium glutamate. Just because you can break down a food into chemical components, does not make synthesized chemicals necessarily comparable in every way. Your logic eludes me completely.

              2. re: amyzan

                You don't think it might be that you simply shouldn't inhale food dust in general? I can't imagine powdered cocoa in the lungs could be good, or any of a number of spices like pepper. There's a tendency to overcomplicate things, when the common sense of not putting foreign objects in your lungs should be obvious.

            1. Diacetyl is a flavor component of fermented/cultured butter. Do you also notice a difference between sweet cream butter and "European-style" butter? That could explain why you don't like the taste of butter flavoring.