Tasting Vanilla? It Might Be Beaver Butt. (And the FDA Approves.)

published Sep 19, 2013
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

A popular headline resurfaced last week, and it was hard to miss. “Are you eating beaver butt?” The surprising answer is maybe if you eat any processed or pre-packaged foods. The FDA-approved food additive castoreum is a common vanilla substitute billed as a ‘natural flavoring’ on ingredient labels. Turns out it’s made from beaver butt.

Castoreum /kæsˈtɔriəm/ is the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) and the European Beaver (Castor fiber).

That’s the definition of castoreum on Wikipedia (because who knows what an encyclopedia is these days). It’s used in perfumes, medicines, cigarettes and food.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

It may be in your mass-produced vanilla ice cream, your ‘naturally flavored’ strawberry-filled nutrition bars, yogurt and bubble gum.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Personally, this makes me not want to trust anything on a box with the word ‘flavors’ as it seems like these terms are meant to deceive. But what do you think? Worth worrying about, or has this whole thing been blown way out of proportion?

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(Images: 1. Faith Durand; 2. Tom Ford; 3. Flickr member ghostmbg3 licensed through Creative Commons)