Natural Flavors?
Q&A with Bill Harris, M.D.

Q. Dear Mr. Harris,

I am a beginner vegetarian and I was wondering what the deal was with the ingredient "natural flavors" in products. Do I just assume that if a product says it contains "natural flavors" than it does contain animal products?

Please Help

A. Dear Stacey,

That's the assumption I always make because I don't have time to run down the exact contents of "natural flavors," a term that could mean almost anything. A good general rule is: "if man made it, don't eat it." The foods that have labels invariably have lower nutrient values than the fresh vegetables and fruit available in the produce section, anyway. It's better to develop a taste for those healthy foods than to spend time wondering about the contents of processed foods that were made for profit rather than for your health.

Here's a good quote from

"Just What's in Those Natural Flavors Anyway...?
By Dar Veverka

The exact definition of natural flavorings & flavors from Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations is as follows:

"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."

In other words, natural flavors can be pretty much anything approved for use in food."


-William Harris, M.D.