There is a substance called castoreum that comes from a beaver’s castor sacs near its butt. It’s known as a food additive used in perfumes and processed foods including ice cream, frozen dairy products, meat products, sweets, pudding, gelatin, chewing gum and alcoholic beverages as a natural flavoring, adding a vanilla or raspberry-like scent. It might also be called “natural flavor” in foods.
According to the FDA, natural flavors can include: “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 similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional” (21CFR101.22).
“That means, the food industry can use virtually anything found in nature (including genetically engineered fruits, vegetables, meat and hidden forms of MSG derived from yeast) and label it as “natural flavors”. These flavors create a false sense of reality while you are eating and give off the illusion of real food. The flavors work against you, getting you addicted to processed food using the best part of a taste or even smell. (Who are these flavor chemists? You can learn more about them here.) They don’t want you to have the full essence of the strawberry – they want you to only experience the best 1 millionth part of the taste – so you get “addicted” and keep having to go back for more and more, searching continuously for gratification – eating more of that product which in turns fills Big Food Companies pockets. The Big Food Companies are “hijacking” your taste buds one by one and the FDA couldn’t care less, because they allow these companies to get away with it.” Vani Hari known as the Food Babe.
So how toxic is it for us? That’s for you to decide. Let’s look at the history. The use of castoreum dates back centuries (for at least 80 years according to pub med however for thousands of years according to other sources) (REF 1) and was discovered through observations of traditional medicine and practices. Ancient civilizations, including Native American tribes and early European settlers, noticed that certain secretions from beavers had potent scent properties. They then began using these secretions in various ways, such as in traditional medicine, perfumery, and even as a food flavoring. Over time, as scientific knowledge expanded, the specific properties and compounds within castoreum were identified, leading to its application in different industries.
According to The Take Out castoreum has been used by humans for thousands of years for a multitude of purposes. “It was an ingredient in an ancient Roman elixir called The Caesar Antidote, which was used to calm menstrual cramps and induce abortions. Sir Francis Bacon extols its virtues in his essay Of Friendship, which mentioned the use of castoreum to improve mental acuity. In Sweden, it is soaked in liquor to make a schnapps called bäverhojt—translation: beaver shout—a shot of which is traditionally taken before embarking on a wild beaver hunt.
Speaking of beaver hunting: During the Middle Ages, the demand for castoreum and beaver pelts was so high that they were hunted to extinction in England, and became endangered all across the continent of Europe. When Europeans settled in North America, they found beavers by the millions, and castoreum-mania was up and running once again. Beaver pelts were used as hats; beaver meat was eaten by by settlers throughout the U.S. and Canada; and those precious, odorous castoreum sacs became a popular component in perfumes.
Though beaver economics became a pillar of the New World economy for several centuries (it’s what the Astor family got rich off before building its massive real estate fortune), it only began sneaking into food in the early 20th century when food manufacturers began looking to perfumers for industrial flavoring agents. Castoreum was never used directly as a one-to-one replacement for vanilla flavorings, rather, a tiny bit was added to artificial flavorings, as the musk added a bit more “oomph” to make fake vanilla taste more natural.”
There isn’t enough reliable information to know how castoreum works in the body.
Castoreum is certainly not suitable for vegans and it’s produce by taking the skinned beaver, slicing off the castor glands and then drying them out, before selling them. Specifically from beavers that are Canadian, European, and Siberian.
Now that you know more about it, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you will want to consume castoreum.
You will find castoreum today in popular perfumes, and foods with a natural raspberry or vanilla flavoring. Brands such as Haribo, Yoplait and Ben & Jerry’s use it in their raspberry-flavored products.
This blog was sponsored by Volley, a tequila seltzer made with premium tequila and organic juice, who do NOT use castoreum unlike other seltzers and do not use any natural flavors period.
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