Faking It: Food Flavors

We’re returning to a series that we began a few weeks ago: Faking It. We’re looking at how artificial colors, flavors, and additives affect our foods. This week we’re talking to Dr. Gary Reineccius about the artificial flavors that get added to our food. How do we discover artificial flavors? Why do we add them? Are they safe? We talked about all these and more and are excited to share our conversation with you!

Memorable Quotes

“We add artificial flavors to make them more palatable…many of the foods that we eat that are processed in any way are formulated from ingredients a lot of flavor.”

“We will isolate and extract out all the flavor things- things we can smell and things we can taste- and we will identify them. Then the people in the food industry say…can we buy them or find some source of them and put it together like nature does?”

“We’ll use exactly the same chemicals [as natural flavors], we’ll use exactly the same amounts, and guess what- you have an artificial flavor!”

“A [natural] food can contain some [toxins] but they’re there in very low amounts, so it’s fine. But when we make an artificial flavor, we’re not permitted to use anything that has ever been found to cause cancer or some other illness…So I would argue that artificial flavors are safer than natural flavors.”


Here’s more information on Dr. Gary Reineccius.

If you are more interested in the GRAS compounds we talked about, here is the FDA’s list.

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