A while back I wrote about the presence of hair, beetles and beaver anal glands in the foods we eat. Of the three, beaver anal glands, a whiffy combo of glands and urine that beavers use to mark their territory, captured by far the biggest share of people’s attention. Since then numerous search queries have hit my blog seeking a list of specific foods containing these glands, which are ground up into a product known as castoreum used in raspberry, strawberry and, most often, in vanilla flavoring.

As it happens no up to date consumer list of specific foods containing castoreum exists anywhere. Why? Well to start out, would you buy a food product if you knew it contained beaver anal glands? These glands are not exactly anyone’s idea of a heavenly nosh. Anticipating this, the food industry managed to get castoreum added to foods under that innocuous, legal and sometimes not so innocent label: “natural flavoring”. So even if castoreum IS present in foods and beverages like ice cream, yogurt and soda, you and I will never know it. Nor will any food manufacture divulge this info if you contact them (why nix sales?). They will inform you that THEY never add castoreum to their foods and beverages. If pressed, they will probably add they can’t of course speak for their vendors, who supply them with flavorings containing ingredients that are proprietary information.

After Jamie Oliver, a British chef with a large following, appeared on the David Letterman Show last year and mentioned that vanilla ice cream was made with castoreum, the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) contacted 5 manufactures of vanilla flavoring to ask if there was any truth to this statement. All five manufacturers said no, that castoreum is not used today in any form of vanilla for human use.

On the other hand, Fenaroli’s handbook of flavor ingredients (a $340 industry eBook) published in 2005, provides a list of reported foods and beverages containing castoreum extract:

Reported Uses PPM (parts per million) (Fema* 1994):

Food Category Usual Max
Alcoholic Beverages 79.59 93.69
Baked Goods 62.28 68.47
Gelatins, Puddings 43.58 47.34
Soft Candy 37.28 44.10
Frozen Dairy 24.39 26.26
Nonalcoholic Beverages 24.21 29.77
Hard Candy 24.17 24.17
Chewing Gum 18.60 42.09

 

So what are we to believe? Are beaver anal glands still being used to flavor foods and beverages or not? And If so, how much and which foods? How about it, Food Industry?

*Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association

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