Make Sure Those Red, White & Blue Foods are Good for You

Today is a celebration of the founding of our great country, and with this celebration comes a great feast filled with delicious foods and drinks.

The 4th of July will surely bring to your tables all sorts of different treats decorated in red, white, and blue.

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.

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 I’m about to tell you might change the way you look at food labels forever.

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‘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, I 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, I’d like to share with you some of the most eye-opening and potentially disturbing ingredients in your food that companies label as natural.

So, I must warn you that the rest of this article may not be for the faint of heart. But the truth of the matter is that one day, you might find yourself unknowingly consuming a natural ingredient like …

Beaver Anal Glands

Yes, you did 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 with that — 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, 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. Have you had any experience with these unexpected ingredients?

Have a save and happy July Fourth. That also means knowing what hidden toxins may be lurking in your food — and staying away from them.

Happy and Healthy Investing,

Brad Hoppmann


Uncommon Wisdom Daily

Your thoughts on “Make Sure Those Red, White & Blue Foods are Good for You”

  1. Isinglass Is used for settling out the yeast in beer making. I never heard of it being used as a coloring agent.

  2. I enjoy reading your columns, even when it hurts.

    Thanks for your honesty,

    William Dunn

  3. Love the way you step beyond investing to give us tips of other items that should concern all Americans. I was aware of the items you mentioned in this article but imagine most weren’t. More power to you, sir, for looking out for us. Hope you have had a very enjoyable 4th of July Holiday.

  4. In addition to what you said about the natural label, it does not have any legal requirements when it is used. So natural orange or strawberry or whatever flavor can simply mean that it is completely chemical flavoring that tastes like a flavor existing in nature. It doesn’t need to contain anything a normal person would actually consider natural.

  5. I always knew packaged food (especially in developed markets) was a no-no… but this!?? You certainly made our day, Sir!! Thank you.

    I have long back organised at home my own bread, chicken and quail and eggs there from; milk, butter and cootage cheese from my neighbours’ cows, ditto some of the fruits; and fish from the Danube delta. Now you have me wondering how to organise vanilla essence, cheese and real chocolate. The rest is easier to forgo I guess!

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