Have you ever wondered where artificial raspberry, vanilla or strawberry flavor comes from?
These are the dried perineal glands of the beaver. They contain castoreum — a food additive usually listed as ‘natural flavoring’ in the ingredient list. Castoreum is the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver, it is a yellowish secretion in combination with the beaver’s urine, used during scent marking of territory. In the USA, castoreum as a food additive is considered by the FDA to be generally recognized as safe, often referenced simply as a “natural flavoring” in products’ lists of ingredients. While it can be used in both foods and beverages as a vanilla, raspberry and strawberry flavoring.
What it is: Brace yourself—this food flavoring is extracted from the castor sac scent glands of the male or female beaver, which are located near the anus. According to Milkowski, the substance is pretty expensive (think about what it probably takes to obtain it) and is more common in perfume than in actual foods.
Where you’ll find it: While it sounds downright disgusting, the FDA says it’s GRAS, meaning it’s “generally recognized as safe.” You won’t see this one on the food label because it’s generally listed as “natural flavoring.” It’s natural all right—naturally icky.
Gross-out factor: Medium