Memorial Day is a time to recall and honor those who lost their lives serving our great country.
We may disagree about the wisdom of particular wars or the decisions our politicians make. Yet most of us are united in having family members and friends who honorably served in the armed forces.
And this coming Monday, we will all unite in celebrating our fallen heroes. They are the reason our flag still waves.
Many Americans will also celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer. This weekend could bring your first dip in the pool, a big beach barbecue, and/or all sorts of special treats decorated in the colors of our flag — red, white and blue.
However, we have to be careful when it comes to eating foods that come in patriotic hues …
|Image credit: thebakingchocolatess.com|
Some of us may try to make our holiday meals healthier by opting to choose foods with “natural” flavoring instead of artificial.
If you look at the label of most packaged foods you consume, chances are you’ll spot the term “natural flavors.”
One would assume that since an ingredient is natural, it also must be harmless. But not so fast …
That’s because “natural” has a broader definition than many of us may realize.
If you’re choosing foods based on the claim that they contain natural flavors or ingredients, what we’re about to tell you might change the way you look at food labels forever.
‘Natural’ Does Not Always Equal ‘Healthy’
Natural means “existing in nature.” And that definition expands to more than just fruits and vegetables and other traditionally healthy gifts that Mother Earth offers us.
Natural items could also include the poison known as anthrax, which cultivates naturally in the soil on farms.
Even carbon monoxide gas is a natural byproduct. But if it leaks from the gas lines of our homes, for instance, it could result in an undetectable death for all who reside there.
Now, we don’t want to claim that manufacturers are setting out to put poisons in our foods. But for many people with food sensitivities and allergies, going “natural” might be more harmful than helpful.
What’s Really in a Name?
In the Environmental Working Group’s Food Scores database of over 80,000 foods, “natural flavor” is the fourth-most-common ingredient on nutrition labels behind salt, water and sugar.
Yet, a flavoring labeled as natural could contain anywhere from 50 to 100 separate ingredients.
With the term “natural flavors” being relative, there are some eye-opening (and potentially disturbing) ingredients in your food. You might one day find yourself unknowingly consuming one of these natural flavors … even if you read the label first!
Beaver Anal Glands
Yes, you just read that correctly. And chances are, you have already tasted and eaten the hindquarters of a beaver.
Believe it or not, the secretions from a beaver’s anal glands provide the natural flavoring in some natural flavors of foods such as vanilla, raspberry and strawberry.
The scientific word for the ingredient is castoreum. But you won’t see that word listed on a food label anytime soon.
Environmental health expert Lisa Lefferts, with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, had this to say about castoreum:
“Castoreum is a natural flavor extracted from the anal castor sacs of beavers, and it’s used to help create a vanilla or occasionally a fruity taste. So, in other words, vanilla flavor doesn’t necessarily come from the vanilla bean.”
Lefferts says the problem — aside from the fact that most of us would pass, given the choice of having beaver anal glands in our food — is that these flavors are not real food.
“The main reason to be concerned about flavors, whether they are natural or artificial, is that when they are in there, you can be pretty sure that something real and nutritious has been left out.”
If that’s the case, why not explain what natural flavors are on ingredient labels?
Marsha Cohen, a professor at the UC Hastings College of Law, said it best:
“Putting the word natural anywhere there gives you an aura.”
When it comes to selling food, she says it’s all about the aura.
That said, listing “natural beaver anal glands” on food packaging definitely won’t increase sales. But that’s not the only item that may be hiding in our “natural” foods …
Below are some of the other more shocking natural ingredients used in food and drinks. Brace yourself …
• Ground-up Beetles — Used to dye foods red, beetles can appear in yogurt, maraschino cherries, jams, cakes and tomato products. According to a petition on Change.org, you’ve probably consumed at least one pound of red dye in your life. This means you’ve likely ingested at least 70,000 cochineal beetles.
• Fish Bladders — Also known as isinglass, dried fish bladders give beer its golden glow.
• Sheep Secretions (aka Lanolin) — This thick, oily secretion found in sheep’s wool is used to soften chewing gum. It can also be found in cosmetics, sunscreen and baby products.
• Sawdust — Sawdust keeps shredded cheese from clumping up.
• Cleaning Products — Sodium bisulfate is used in most toilet bowl cleaning products. It is also used to extend the shelf life of potato chips and bleach out discoloration.
These are just a few of the many disturbing natural flavorings we found.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t sample those delicious-looking red, white and blue treats you’ll bake or buy this weekend.
The most-important thing we can do is take the time to honor those who gave all. But you may want to take an extra moment to ensure you’re also making good choices for all the patriotic holidays — Flag Day, Fourth of July, even Labor Day — that summertime brings.
Happy and Healthy Investing,
The Uncommon Wisdom Daily Team