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Natural Flavors added to food?

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Unfortunately, food companies have enormous latitude when it comes to the label "natural flavorings." From the Code of Federal Regulations - Title 21, Part 101:

(3) The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means 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. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in 172.510 of this chapter.

Full text: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=101.22

So that phrase "protein hydrolysate" can be another name for MSG, depending on how it's formed, but the amount in which it occurs is fairly small, so you'll likely be ok. So while it's not explicitly against the Whole30 rules, I'd avoid buying anything with "natural flavors" in the future. With tomatoes, get them fresh or in a glass jar.

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To confirm, the following ingredients in a tea are acceptable?
"Chun Mee green tea, spearmint leaves, lemon verbena, lemongrass, natural flavoring"

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To confirm, the following ingredients in a tea are acceptable?

"Chun Mee green tea, spearmint leaves, lemon verbena, lemongrass, natural flavoring"

 

Yes, these are all okay.

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This is an old post, but I was trying to get a full grasp on how I’m the world the Whole30 program allows companies with “natural flavors” do he Whole30 approved and this thread was the very tippy top of my google search. 

**anyone trying to get healthy and clean up their gut should NEVER, I repeat NEVER, use a product that contains “natural flavorings”. It simply is not regulated and you truly don’t know what it is.**

My disappointment and trust of the Whole30 program has gone down the drain with this. Also I read a response stating that it’s such a small amount that it’s ok, well, the reality is: when trying to heal your gut, even a small amount can cause massive problems. In addition, you actually don’t know how much of this “natural flavoring” is in the product you’re consuming. 

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@AAC5453 you are free to leave out items that include natural flavorings in your own Whole30, obviously.

The thing is, if they'd said you couldn't have natural flavors, it would make the program even more difficult for people who are not used to cooking from scratch or who for whatever reason need to be able to dine in restaurants occasionally. People have raised these arguments about other items that are allowed on Whole30, like coffee, conventionally raised meat or produce, or even that some recipes mention using aluminum foil in cooking. The creators of Whole30 have made a program that cuts out the items most likely to cause issues for most people, and done it in a way that is accessible and doable for almost anyone, regardless of where they are starting from. If a person already eats pretty cleanly, there may be things that are allowed, that they feel are worth leaving out because of what they've learned about those things. But if you have a person who is eating fast food or Hamburger Helper multiple times a week, who has never cooked from scratch, who is also trying to give up soda for the first time in their life, being able to pick up some foods from the grocery store that have natural flavors but are otherwise clean can make the difference between being able to finish 30 days or giving up in frustration part way through. 

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I’d also add that a lot of people have had A LOT of success with W30 in spite of consuming food with “natural flavors.”  So while of course you’re welcome to come to your own conclusions/opinions, they don’t align at all with my experience.  As @ShannonM816 said, you’re definitely free to do it without, a lot of people eliminate additional things they know are problematic for themselves personally.  

@AAC5453 Why not try a W30 without the natural flavors, then do a reintro where you add a few back in to see if you can’t determine some objective evidence about how they effect you and report back? I think that’d be really informative and helpful to the community.

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24 minutes ago, TJHigh said:

I’d also add that a lot of people have had A LOT of success with W30 in spite of consuming food with “natural flavors.”  So while of course you’re welcome to come to your own conclusions/opinions, they don’t align at all with my experience.  As @ShannonM816 said, you’re definitely free to do it without, a lot of people eliminate additional things they know are problematic for themselves personally.  

@AAC5453 Why not try a W30 without the natural flavors, then do a reintro where you add a few back in to see if you can’t determine some objective evidence about how they effect you and report back? I think that’d be really informative and helpful to the community.

Yes of course I do Whole30 without the natural flavors. And I’m very sure many people have success with still eating them. A lot of people also have success with other things that aren’t great for the body. On the flip side, it could be the potential for many downfalls too. Regardless, natural flavors shouldn’t be considered “ok”, they can very well include things like MSG. MSG is specifically stated to be avoided......natural flavors is simply not regulated, none of us actually know what it is for that particular product. 

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Also - to add, I will not consciously consume a product that contains “natural flavors” so an experiment such as your suggestion won’t work, maybe someone else can try that! 

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1 hour ago, ShannonM816 said:

@AAC5453 you are free to leave out items that include natural flavorings in your own Whole30, obviously.

The thing is, if they'd said you couldn't have natural flavors, it would make the program even more difficult for people who are not used to cooking from scratch or who for whatever reason need to be able to dine in restaurants occasionally. People have raised these arguments about other items that are allowed on Whole30, like coffee, conventionally raised meat or produce, or even that some recipes mention using aluminum foil in cooking. The creators of Whole30 have made a program that cuts out the items most likely to cause issues for most people, and done it in a way that is accessible and doable for almost anyone, regardless of where they are starting from. If a person already eats pretty cleanly, there may be things that are allowed, that they feel are worth leaving out because of what they've learned about those things. But if you have a person who is eating fast food or Hamburger Helper multiple times a week, who has never cooked from scratch, who is also trying to give up soda for the first time in their life, being able to pick up some foods from the grocery store that have natural flavors but are otherwise clean can make the difference between being able to finish 30 days or giving up in frustration part way through. 

You’re right - it would exclude a lot of products. I agree it’s better than nothing. 

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3 hours ago, AAC5453 said:

Yes of course I do Whole30 without the natural flavors. And I’m very sure many people have success with still eating them. A lot of people also have success with other things that aren’t great for the body. On the flip side, it could be the potential for many downfalls too. Regardless, natural flavors shouldn’t be considered “ok”, they can very well include things like MSG. MSG is specifically stated to be avoided......natural flavors is simply not regulated, none of us actually know what it is for that particular product. 

This is not actually true. MSG has to be called out specifically by law in at the very least US and Canada.  MSG is NOT considered a natural flavor and can't be hidden like that.

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17 minutes ago, SugarcubeOD said:

This is not actually true. MSG has to be called out specifically by law in at the very least US and Canada.  MSG is NOT considered a natural flavor and can't be hidden like that.

I’m so sorry - you’re simply not correct. In part you are. The FDA states that it must be labeled if it is added as a single ingredient under as a flavor enhancer. In other words, if MSG is a component of something else then it is not required to be listed. In other words “processed free” MSG is almost always labeled at “natural flavors”. Now, not always do “natural flavors” contain MSG - however, MSG absolutely is hidden and not considered an ingredient. Again, no one truly knows what is called snide red “natural flavor” unless you are the maker. You can certainly ask some manufactures what it is, but, you’re likely to hear that it is proprietary. Worth a shot still! 

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Something else to add to the convo here - I'm not sure what the entire process is for labeling a product with the official Whole30 Approved label and logo, but I know that Melissa Hartwig meets with the companies and really does her homework about the sourcing of their ingredients/natural flavorings to make sure they aren't anything bad.

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17 hours ago, AAC5453 said:

I’m so sorry - you’re simply not correct. In part you are. The FDA states that it must be labeled if it is added as a single ingredient under as a flavor enhancer. In other words, if MSG is a component of something else then it is not required to be listed. In other words “processed free” MSG is almost always labeled at “natural flavors”. Now, not always do “natural flavors” contain MSG - however, MSG absolutely is hidden and not considered an ingredient. Again, no one truly knows what is called snide red “natural flavor” unless you are the maker. You can certainly ask some manufactures what it is, but, you’re likely to hear that it is proprietary. Worth a shot still! 

@AAC5453 I've copied and pasted this from the FDA website:

How can I know if there is MSG in my food?

FDA requires that foods containing added MSG list it in the ingredient panel on the packaging as monosodium glutamate. However, MSG occurs naturally in ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and protein isolate, as well as in tomatoes and cheeses. While FDA requires that these products be listed on the ingredient panel, the agency does not require the label to also specify that they naturally contain MSG. However, foods with any ingredient that naturally contains MSG cannot claim “No MSG” or “No added MSG” on their packaging. MSG also cannot be listed as “spices and flavoring.”

 

If you're going to call someone out, maybe get your information from the source of the regulation rather than a propaganda website like "truth in labeling". We already recommend that people not consume products with the list I made bold above because of the naturally occurring MSG. However, just as fruits and veggies are allowed despite their naturally occurring sugar and even tomatoes with their naturally occurring MSG, no one is going to show up at someone's house and kick them out of the Whole30 for using a beef broth with yeast extract in it. 

We can encourage people to make better choices and look for items that don't contain added flavorings or preservatives, but if that cup of coconut-flavored coffee with "natural flavorings" makes someone a little happier when they're having a tough day or a can of LaCroix with its "natural flavorings" helps someone kick a 4-Diet-Coke-a-day habit, it's not a bad thing. It's better for us to cheer someone on for their small steps of progress than to tell them "oh well, you made soup with broth containing yeast extract and that's mucked it all up too bad you're not trying hard enough."

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