NATURAL FLAVORS This broad, ambiguous term is used to describe food additives that come from natural sources - but are often created in a lab
The FDA defines "natural flavors" (or "natural flavorings") as any flavoring essence or oil derived from "the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."
NATURAL OR NOT?
As with artificial flavors, most natural flavors are concocted by "flavorists" in labs and are often chemically identical to flavors obtained from artificial sources. Seasoning such as black pepper and garlic powder can also be listed as "natural flavors" because they're used only to enhance taste.
People who avoid meat, dairy, and fish for any reason should pay mind to products labeled as containing "natural flavors." These additives can come from meat, eggs, dairy, seafood, and poultry; yet their source does not have to be disclosed, except - ironically, when they're included in meat and poultry products, which are regulated by the USDA.
Food manufacturers are sometimes reluctant about informing consumers about the source from where the flavor is obtained and whether it has been produced with the incorporation of substances such as animal by-products glycerin, gelatin, and the like, and the use of alcohol in the flavors. Orthodox Jews, Jains, Hindus, and Muslims adhere to religious laws, and vegans to personal morals, that restrict the use of animal by-products and alcohol in foods unless subject to oversight and inspection by their respective religious authority or less-strict or circumstantial moral belief. In many western countries, millions of consumers rely on a Jewish Kosher certification mark to indicate that natural flavorings used in a food product are pure and free of animal products.
IS THERE GLUTEN IN NATURAL FLAVORS?
In addition to gluten containing grains, there are also many ingredients to question. These ingredients MAY contain of wheat, rye, or barley. If you have any questions about an ingredient, then contact the manufacturing company to learn about where these products are derived. (Does this product contain: wheat, rye, barley?)
Gluten containing grains are rarely used in flavorings. Flavorings are mostly derived from corn; exceptions include barley malt flavoring, or flavorings in meat products. However, natural flavor may be made from a variety of plant materials and should be confirmed with the manufacturer.