Flavours can be either natural or artificial. Natural and artificial flavours enhance the taste of the food to make it more appetizing.
These include flavoring substances/ extracts/preparations, which give the food its taste or odor or both. Flavoring agents are of three types.
- Natural Flavours and Natural Flavouring Substances: These are flavor preparations or single substances, obtained from vegetables by physical processes.
- Nature-Identical Flavouring Substances: These substances are chemically purified from an aromatic source or synthesized and have the same chemical composition as natural products.
- Artificial Flavouring Substances: These substances are chemically different and absent in natural products.
Natural vs. Artificial Flavours
Natural flavours are essential oils or compounds extracted from spices, fruits, vegetables, bark, buds, leaves, meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products, etc.
Artificial flavours are simply chemical mixtures synthetic flavours that taste and smell like natural flavours. The significant role of both the natural flavour and artificial flavour is to add flavouring to the food rather than nutrition.
Let’s take artificial vs natural vanilla extract as an example to better understand the difference between two.
The natural vanilla flavour is extracted from vanilla beans and diluted with alcohol. The most notable compound that contributes natural flavour to vanilla is hydroxybenzaldehyde, hydroxybenzoic acid, and anisaldehyde. Apart from this, there are over 200 compounds that are responsible for the flavour of natural vanilla.
Interestingly, to create the artificial flavour of vanilla, the few key chemical molecules that give taste and flavour to vanilla are created in the lab and diluted with alcohol.
Most commercial flavouring agents are nature identical flavours that are chemically synthesized rather than extracted from the natural sources.
Generally, flavours are listed on the ingredients list of food products as natural flavours and artificial flavours. Manufacturers don’t list chemical names like synthetic vanillin or diluted cinnamaldehyde on the product’s ingredients list.
Chemical Flavouring Agents Examples
The most commonly used chemical flavouring agents are alcohols, esters, ketones, pyrazines, phenolics, and terpenoids. Alcohol has a bitter and medicinal taste, ester is fruity, ketones and pyrazines taste like caramel, phenolics have a smoky flavour and terpenoids have citrus or pine flavour.
Artificial Flavours and Your Health
Flavours whether natural or artificial don’t add nutritional value to food. They don’t contribute to significant health benefits through vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc. However, some artificial flavours such as diacetyl can cause lung disease.
You might have also noticed that natural and artificial flavours taste different. This is because natural flavours include hundreds of compounds that contribute to the taste and smell while artificial flavours have the most prevalent compound that tastes similar to their natural counterparts.
The difference has not been linked to causing any significant health effects when consumed but inhalation of large amounts of flavour has been linked with allergies and lung disease.
Use and Restrictions on Flavouring Agents
Use of Antioxidants, Emulsifying and Stabilising Agents and Food Preservatives in Flavour: These are permitted in flavoring.
Use of Anticaking Agent in Flavours: Synthetic amorphous silica (SiO2) may be used in powder flavoring (max 2%).
Restriction on Use of Flavouring Agents: The following flavoring agents must not be present in any type of food:
- Coumarin and dihydrocoumarin
- Tonkabean (Diptera adorat)
- β-asarone and cinnamyl anthracite
- Ethyl Methyl Ketone
- Eugenyl methyl ether
- Methyl β naphthyl Ketone
- Safrole and Isosafrole
- Thujone and isothujone α & β thujone
What Do the FSSAI Regulations Say About Flavours in Food?
As per the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011, the flavors that are added to food items should comply with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Accordingly, the following must be ensured:
- The added flavor must be the least amount possible to achieve efficacy.
- Added flavor should become a part of the food during manufacture, processing or packaging.
- Added flavor should be treated in the same way as the food ingredient.
The Issue of “Carry Over”: It should be noted that the issue of “Carry Over” applies to additives, including flavors, which will be added in the starting raw materials and will be “carried over” to the final product. The presence of flavors in food due to carry over is allowed, if it is not prohibited in the regulations and is within the maximum permitted limits.
Food Items in Which Flavours Can Be Added:
- Thermally Processed Fruit Beverages / Fruit Drink/ Ready to Serve Fruit Beverages (Canned / Bottled / Flexi-pack / Aseptically Packed).
- Custard Powder.
- Ice Lollies or Edible Ices.
- Pan Masala.
- Canned Luncheon Meat / Canned Chopped Meat / Canned Cooked Ham: These may be smoked and flavored with natural flavors and nature identical flavors and permitted flavor
Food Items in Which Flavours Can Be Added, but with Restrictions:
- Synthetic Syrup or Sharbat: Must be free from burnt or objectionable flavors. Only permitted flavors
- Interesterified Vegetable Fat / Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils: The artificial flavor, as per the list of permissible flavors, should be distinct from that of ghee.
- Turmeric (Haldi): Should have characteristic flavor and must be free of artificial flavors.
- Tea / Green Tea: Natural flavors and natural flavoring substances allowed.
- Added flavor should bear proper label declaration.
- Tea used for flavored tea should be of high standards of quality.
- Flavored tea manufacturers must register with the Tea Board.
- Kangra Tea:
- The tea containing added flavor should be clearly mentioned on the label.
- The tea used for flavored tea should be of high standards of quality.
- Tea but be labeled as Kangra tea.
- Flavored tea manufacturers must register with the Tea Board.
Food Items in Which Flavours Cannot Be Added:
- Chakka and Shrikhand: Must not contain added flavors.
- Jam / Fruit Cheese: Must be free of burnt or objectionable
- Cornflour (Maize Starch): Must not contain added flavors.
- Solvent Extracted Cotton Seed Flour: Must not contain added flavors.
- Carob Powder: Must not contain artificial flavors or rancid/obnoxious flavors.
As per the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011, the following criteria must be met:
- Added flavors must be mentioned in capital letters on the label:
Contains Added Flavour (Specify a Type of Flavouring Agent)
- Artificial flavors must mention the common name of the flavors.
- Natural flavors or nature identical flavors must mention the class name of flavors on the label.
- Foods containing fruit flavors, which may be natural/nature identical/artificial (single/combined), cannot be described as a fruit product and the label must display “ADDED” (NAME OF FRUIT) FLAVOUR.
FSSAI Gazette Notifies Ban on the Use of Diacetyl, Flavouring Agent Oils
Diacetyl is a chemical that is used as a flavouring agent in edible oils. FSSAI has notified the ban under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales- Second Amendment Regulations, 2019.
According to food experts, diacetyl is produced as a by-product during fermentation. It is an organic compound with an intense buttery flavour. Diacetyl is a yellow or green liquid that is used as a flavouring agent in food products and alcoholic beverages to give smooth buttery flavour.
Diacetyl can be hazardous to human health when heated and inhaled over a long period of time. Several cases have been reported about factory workers who manufacture artificial butter flavouring have been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans. It is a rare lung disease that can be life-threatening.
Flavouring (Packaging and Labelling)
FSSAI regulation clause no.126.96.36.199 states that
Disclosure of flavouring agents not required on finished product labels under the list of ingredients.
The addition of flavouring agents needs to be mentioned on the finished product label.
– Product contains added flavour (Specify type of flavouring agent)
In case both colors and flavours are used in the food product.
– Contains permitted added color (ins) and added flavour (s)
In the case of artificial flavouring substances.
– Contains added artificial flavours (example – Chocolate)
Major Limitations of FSSAI Flavouring Clause
There is no separate flavouring regulation. It is under food additive regulation which has limited clarifications. Also, there is no reference list of globally accepted flavouring substances approved by FEMA GRAS, Codex JECFA, EFSA, etc.
The existing regulation lacks information about thermal process flavourings, smoke flavourings, and flavour modifying properties (FMP) addition in flavourings.
Though additives like antioxidants, emulsifying and stabilizing agents, preservatives, and anti-caking are mentioned in the regulation, specific names of additives are not mentioned under these classes of flavouring agents.
How Can We Help?
Arbro Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd. has NABL accredited and FSSAI approved laboratories with state-of-the-art instruments for testing food samples. Our dedicated scientific staff are always abreast of the latest developments in the scientific arena and are well versed with the latest techniques and instrumentations to carry out testing of chemical constituents of various types of foodstuffs on a regular basis.
If you would like to use our testing services, please feel free to contact us through the contact form or call us now on +91-11-45754575. We will be happy to provide you a proposal for testing of flavor additives in your food samples.