As Hippocrates, the father of western medicine once said, “Let thy food by thy medicine.” Food is a marvelous thing, which makes it such as shame when you read crap like this, “Beaver anal glands enhance the flavor of raspberry candies and sweets.”Food chemicals are inherent. What’s more, there presence does not equate to risk.
Getting to the Truth about Food Chemicals
Chemicals exist everywhere. Scientists have identified some 60 million chemicals in our world. About 100,000 of these are manmade. Even the most innocent of foods contain chemicals. Take the apple, for instance.
This menace to society contains a host of nasties, including acetone, ethanol, proponal, formaldehyde, and cyanide. In fact, researchers have described over 300 chemicals in apples.
Apples don’t exist alone in that regard. Chocolate contains over 500 chemicals. In fact, any food or beverage you consume has chemicals and lots of them. The argument about the presence of food chemicals is debunked. Let’s move on already.
We Need Chemicals
A lot of well-meaning zealots like to decry processed foods. I certainly wouldn’t advocate increasing your consumption. However, processed foods do not constitute a risk simply because of the food chemicals they contain. Take ready-to-eat foods (RTE), for example.
A nasty microbe called listeria poses a significant risk for these types of food. Temperatures from 125 to 130°F can kill it. It can cause health problems like meningitis and spontaneous abortion. However, temperature remains a risk with foods of this sort because of their nature.
The USDA-FDA regulates these and other foods because of the risks they carry. The regulations state:
Therefore, we recommend that, whenever practical, you formulate a finished RF-RTE food using one or more of the following listeristatic control measures:
pH less than or equal to 4.4;
Water activity less than or equal to 0.92;
In other words, RTEs must have a program to prevent the serious health outcomes caused by these pathogens that may include chemicals like sodium lactate and sodium diacetate. If you consume RTEs, be glad your foods contain chemicals.
So What About the Beaver?
The beaver is a victim of another well-meaning zealot trying to help kids lose weight. Child obesity remains a problem in the United States. It leaves many debating what can be done. One way others have used involves scaring kids into eating right.
Without knowledge, we all remain vulnerable to misinformation no matter what the cause. Yes, castoreum extract is derived from secretions of the castor sacs of beavers. Unlike secretions from other animals, it doesn’t stink, but mimics a vanilla-like scent and flavor. And, yes, it is a GRAS ingredient, according to the FDA.
The fact remains that if it was a common ingredient at once time, it hasn’t been for some time. In other words, your ice cream sundae doesn’t likely contain beaver gland secretions. Look at the numbers. Annual consumption of castoreum is less than 300 pounds, whereas vanilla exceeds 2.6 million pounds.
Besides, if castoreum is indeed used, it is likely an artificial flavoring derived from wood pulp that is cheaper and easier to obtain . However, some manufacturers still use castoreum in its original glory in the perfume industry and in formulation of a Scandinavian libation called Bäverhojt.
Leave the beaver alone. The castoreum you may be consuming is more likely something synthetic. But that’s another story.