Is “Natural” Vanilla Flavoring Really From Beavers’ Anal Glands?

14 months.

By now, I’ve well established myself as “that dad” who is a health nut vegetarian who won’t allow his son to eat processed foods; that includes fruit juice.

I’ve been very clear that I deem the FDA as illegitimate. Why?

Because if they were doing their job, I wouldn’t have to ask the question I did in the title of this article. Well, now verifies Jamie Oliver’s claim as as accurate; that vanilla and strawberry flavoring is made from castoreum, which is derived from the anal glad of beavers.

Wikipedia confirms this absurd concept:

“In the United States, Castoreum has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive, often referenced simply as a ‘natural flavoring’ in the product’s list of ingredients. It is commonly used in both food and beverages, especially as vanilla and raspberry flavoring.”

Again, we shouldn’t even be having this conversation. We shouldn’t have to guess whether or not our children’s animal crackers really are made from beavers’ anal glands.

It’s reasons like this that I make such a deliberate effort to avoid processed foods as much as possible. But see how tricky it is?

Food companies are able to get away with calling beaver anal glands “natural flavoring” while the FDA gives the thumb up.

Castoreum is just a little too natural for me.

Sorry son, but you’re not old enough to know where vanilla ice cream comes from…


Note: This post was updated on February 16, 2013, after confirmed the truth about vanilla flavoring urban legend.

For more on vegan food info, read more.


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  1. by Emm

    On March 31, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    I’m intrigued now as well. I always thought the ‘natural’ in natural flavoring was vanilla bean and or a combination of cheaper flavors to mimic vanilla flavor.

    Where is this vast supply of castoreum coming from? Is it a by product of the fur industry? That’s the only place I can think of that would have a supply of beaver ‘parts’.

  2. by Rebecca McGrane

    On May 16, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Lead and mercury are both all natural.
    Here are some links to more information about castoreum:

    National Institute of Health

    Remember cocaine was once thought safe for use in small doses. :)

  3. by Jessica

    On May 23, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    I researched this and found the following article through my university’s library (CSU, Long Beach). I only posted the first bit here for you, but if you would like the entire article I’d be happy to send it to you. It’s a PDF. Just email me with “Beaver Flavor” as the subject line. My email address is: r e e b . r e v o l at gmail. com. No spaces obviously. It’s only 6 pages but it does confirm the beaver butt excretions are used in our food. It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever read.

    Journal: International journal of toxicology.
    Volume: 26
    Issue: 1
    Year: 2007
    Pages: 51-55
    Article Title: Safety assessment of castoreum extract as a food ingredient.
    Author: Burdock, George A.

    Castoreum extract (CAS NO. 8023-83-4; FEMA NO. 2261) is a natural product prepared by direct hot-alcohol extraction of castoreum, the dried and macerated castor sac scent glands (and their secretions) from the male or female beaver. It has been used extensively in perfumery and has been added to food as a flavor ingredient for at least 80 years.

  4. by Paul

    On September 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Haha, you think that’s the worst of it? They put alllllll kinds of horrible shit in everything. Guess what’s in “Red Coloring #4″. the stomach juice of an African red beetle. You should be thanking them that it’s only the glands.

  5. by Liz

    On February 7, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Yes it’s from beaver anal glands. There is a beaver trapper in Maine that traps beavers and takes out the glands and makes coffee creamers and other flavorings from them. Watched it on the Discovery Channel.

  6. by Jim Davis

    On February 7, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Keep in mind that vanilla extract does come from vanilla beans, and that only very small amounts of these flavorings, no matter what their source, are used in very small quantities. (Look for “vanilla” on the label.) Also, “natural” flavors are highly processed extracts, so it’s not like you’ll find pieces of beaver in your cookies. (Artificial vanilla, called vanillin, is made from wood pulp.) Apparently the majority of the castoreum used in the U.S. is synthetic. I suspect that making it a lab would be cheaper and more efficient than collecting beaver parts. It’s certainly an interesting topic though, and it doesn’t disgust me at all. People have been eating stranger stuff for all of history.

  7. by E

    On April 3, 2013 at 11:05 am

    These glands can be seen at this website that sells them:

  8. by Horse talk for mature people over 40 - Page 1004

    On June 6, 2013 at 5:57 am

    [...] Here you go Stan. Is “Natural” Vanilla Flavoring Really From Beavers’ Anal Glands? | The Dadabase [...]

  9. [...] Is “Natural” Vanilla Flavoring Really From Beavers’ Anal Glands? 4,190 view(s) | posted on February 12, 2012 [...]

  10. by You are what you eat | The Mind of Brosephus

    On September 15, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    [...] this.  I won’t give you the full story, but I’ll give you links to see for yourself.  Castoreum is used in a variety of products.  In foods, it is used to enhance strawberry and raspberry [...]

  11. [...] Back on February 12, 2012 (a year and 7 months ago) I wrote, “Is “Natural” Vanilla Flavoring Really From Beavers’ Anal Glands?” [...]

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