Artificial Flavors: Delicious or Dangerous?

For the last 30+ years, consumers have met foods labeled with the dreaded phrases “artificial flavors” or “natural flavoring” with much resistance. The stigma associated with these “natural” additives stem from the fact that, 99 times out of 100, there’s nothing natural about the way these flavorings are created. Most of the time, natural and artificial flavors are cooked up in labs. Moreover, the “natural” elements of natural flavorings can be from anything derived from nature. Sometimes this means things you’d expect, like fruits or vegetables. Sometimes this means things that you’d probably never voluntarily put in your mouth, like insects or bone char.

That being said, food supplements are (toxicity speaking) relatively harmless. The newest food additives are so potent and flavorful that not a lot has to be added to the food – really hardly a fraction of the amount that was added just 20 years ago. So chemically speaking, the natural flavors we eat today aren’t nearly as potentially harmful as the same foods of the past.

Natural and artificial flavors also open up the possibility of some truly spectacular taste sensations. The days of plastic tasting banana flavoring or a slight dusting of orange to indicate “barbeque” potato chips are soon to be a thing of the past. Already foreign markets are beginning to explore the full possibilities of flavor additives. Lays Potato Chips, a company based in America, launched a number of specialty flavors in Europe including Thai Sweet Chili, Red Paprika, and Oven Roasted Chicken and Thyme. This caveman has actually tried those chicken chips, and I’ve gotta tell you – it tastes just like chicken.

The real danger of artificial flavoring isn’t in the chemical compounds, but in their ability to mask flavors. Originally, salt and other spices weren’t intended to boost the flavor of already delicious foods; they were used to cover up the taste of rotting food. With the age of flavor additives, consumers won’t be able to easily differentiate between what should and shouldn’t be put into our bodies. If we can disguise any food with artificial flavors, consumers are more susceptible to eating lower quality foods. The extreme of this, of course, is the recently created Japanese “Turd Burger,” artificial meat that is literally extracted from human excrement. In this case, perhaps Jules Winnfield put it best: “Sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know, ’cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy [animal].”

So what do you think Rockheads? Artifical flavors: to eat, or not to eat?

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