The facts on natural flavoring vs artificial flavoring

The Code of Federal Regulations (which is considered part of the administrative law and under Title 21 lies the FDA) considers natural flavorings to be anything containing: “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.”

Artificial flavors are chemicals made from scratch by “flavorists” using chemicals in labs. Natural flavors are also made in a lab and have the potential to be more accurate to the real taste of a specific food but messing with any of the above listed ingredients under the FDA guidelines for natural flavorings is expensive and the results are inconsistent. Creating an artificial flavor requires a chemist to control every step of the flavor’s development that in the end costs less and is more consistent. 

In the end both natural and artificial flavorings are made in a lab and you are better off staying away from them. Avoiding foods with any added flavor can be as simple as this: instead of buying club soda or sparkling water that is flavored with natural and/or artificial flavorings, buy plain club soda and add a lemon or lime or whatever fruit flavor sounds good.