I had no idea about this. I’m so pissed off thinking about it. Mostly because I feel violated. But it really goes to show you just how much you really have to read ingredient labels nowadays, even on things that you would consider pure - like butter!
I had to run some errands this afternoon, one of which was popping into a supermarket to pick up some groceries. The supermarket that I was near is my least favorite of all of the ones around here because their selection of healthy foods/brands or organic options is severely limited. But it was convenient, and I only needed a handful of items, so I thought it would be okay. I picked up some celery, and onions, and seltzer water, and went over to the butter aisle. I noticed Land O Lakes Unsalted Butter was on sale, so I picked it up to purchase it. However, since I was in this sketchy store, I decided to check the ingredients on the butter just in case. And that’s when I saw it - Natural Flavoring. “Huh?” I thought, “That doesn’t make any sense. Why is there natural flavoring in butter?”. I proceeded to pick up every other brand in the store, and all of them included natural flavoring as an ingredient.
As someone who is EXTREMELY sensitive to MSG, I am always wary of “natural flavoring” as it may contain some form of it. So I immediately started thinking about the times I used butter and if any of my MSG symptoms were triggered. But of course, butter is such a common component in so many dishes, I couldn’t tell. I decided that I would do without butter unless I could find some without these natural flavorings.
As luck would have it, I found myself close to a Whole Foods after running my last errand. I decided to pop in there and pick up a few more items I remembered that I needed, as well as look at their butter. I would say about half of the butters that they carried had “natural flavoring” listed as an ingredient. However, they also had some that didn’t. I ended up buying their 365 brand because the ingredients are only Pasteurized Cream and Annatto (added seasonally). Annatto just provides a little bit of yellow color.
So then I came home and did some research online. Here is what I came across:
The natural flavoring that is used as an ingredient in…butter, is a natural milk derivative starter distillate (distilled flavors from fermented, cultured milk) that is added to the cream prior to churning. It produces flavor compounds that give unsalted butter a distinctive, pleasing taste. It is similar to those used in the production of sour cream and buttermilk. It is an all natural ingredient that is approved by the USDA and the FDA.
Unsalted butter is made with cream and starter distillate and ingredients of the unsalted butter is cream and natural flavoring.
Starter distillate is made from fermentation of skim milk or non fat dry milk by several bacteria.
Starter distillate is considered as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by FDA and regulated under code of food regulation title 21 part 184.1848. According to FDA, starter distillate or butter starter distillate is a steam distillate of the culture of any or all of the following species of bacteria grown on a medium consisting of skim milk usually fortified with 0.1% citric acid: Streptococcus lactis, S. cremoris, and S. lactis subsp. diacetylactis, Leuconostoc citrovorum, and L. dextranicum. The ingredient contains more than 98% water, and reminder is a mixture of organic flavor compounds. Besides diacetyl, starter distillate contains minor amounts of acetaldehyde, ethyl formate, ethyl acetate, acetone, ethyl alcohol, 2-butanone, acetic acid and acetoin.
According to a starter distillate manufacturer in USA, there is no alcohol present in their starter distillate but they do not have scientific proof such as Gas Chromatography to justify their claim, although their products are Halal and Kosher certified. The Halal certification organization should run GC before certifying the starter distillate because some bacteria mentioned in FDA statement produce acids only and some acid and alcohol such as in the case of Kefir. It is also depend upon which bacteria are used to manufacturer starter distillate. It is possible that they might use those bacteria which do not produce alcohol during fermentation. Some may argue that amount of alcohol present is very small but we have to bring this knowledge to Muslim consumers and they will decide whether to consume the unsalted butter or not in USA and Canada. Our recommendation is to do thorough investigation with the manufacturer asking scientific evidence in regard with absence of alcohol. If there is no alcohol present in starter distillate or natural flavoring then they consume the unsalted butter if it is under certification.
Unsalted butter is used in many processed food products but this butter contains 100% cream. It does not make sense to use unsalted butter with natural flavoring because it will not provide butter flavor in the processed foods where other ingredients are used, so they have to add natural butter flavor to provide flavor in the finished product. Unsalted butter is sold in 50 pounds block and majority of it comes from New Zealand, Europe and South American countries because domestic butter is expensive. Both domestic and foreign unsalted butter is made of 100% cream. Unsalted butter with no flavoring in butter is used in butter croissants but the manufacturer has to add natural butter flavor to provide the butter flavor in croissant. Baking companies usually do not use salted butter because salt in the butter imparts toughness to the gluten structure of the baked products.
I found this on a message board:
I always react to Land of Lakes butter, no matter what the label says! One box of it had “Natural Flavors” on it that I tried, and one did not….old boxes that have to be used up may have labels that are inaccurate… But be aware too, that butter spoils in a few days if it is natural…it tends to get sour tasting. So if it is not organic, it will contain preservatives, mainly sulfites, which a good majority of us who are MSG sensitive also react to. It does not have to be labeled, but preservatives are in butter and all dairy products, which have to shipped long distances and stay on store shelves for weeks. Itching, sore joints, back pain, dry mouth, hives, thirst and stomach distress are some of the more common effects of sulfite sensitivity. Please check in the book….there is a chapter on sulfites.
And then I found this on someone’s blog:
When we ate at F. Scotts, our waitress said that the butter they serve is made in-house. I asked how Chef Uhlhorn makes it, and she said it was super easy. They just put cream in the food processor, and it makes itself. Then she continued on to say that industrial butter has added MSG to it. Because the added synthesized industrial MSG is a relatively small amount to the butter it is in, the MSG does not have to be put on the label. I was grossed out, so I set out to learn how to make my own butter from cream from a local organic free range, grass eating cows.
She then goes on to explain the process of making your own butter in a food processor. It’s so incredibly easy that I’m definitely going to try it after I use up the butter that I just bought. The flavor is supposed to be so much better when you make your own. Plus you know what’s in it! There should only be ONE ingredient in unsalted butter, and that should be cream.