Nothing beats the taste and aroma of a fresh, ripe cherry. Or does it? According to Eric Shlosser of "Fast Food Nation" fame, our food supply contains a lot less natural and a whole lot of artificial. Artificial cherry flavouring is made up of chemicals as opposed to natural fruit extract. Cherry flavouring is found in candy, medicine and many other products.
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Artificial vs. Natural
Shlosser also contends that most flavours can now be chemically replicated in a lab. Artificial flavourings are often favoured over natural flavours because they are more shelf-stable; they can be reproduced quite accurately and inexpensively and can withstand processing. They are also readily available and of consistent quality.
In 1917, the National Association of Retail Druggists published a recipe for artificial cherry flavouring. Its formulation contained ethyl acetate, ethyl benzoate, oil of persicot, benzoic acid, glycerine and alcohol. The formula was originally published to prove that artificial flavours were inferior to natural and would be a passing fad. Instead, artificial flavours have become more complicated and prevalent over time.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, flavour companies aren't required to disclose ingredients as long as all of the ingredients are considered "Generally Recognized as Safe." This policy allows flavour companies to protect their secret formulas. According to the Flavorist Toolbox, though, the main chemical in cherry flavouring is benzaldehyde. Benzaldehyde is a chemical compound containing carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. When formulated, it emits a pleasant almond odour.
The FDA states that artificial flavouring is no less safe, nutritious or desirable than natural flavours. It states that benzaldehyde is safe for human consumption. However, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration begs to differ. Its list several known health factors related to benzaldehyde; irritation of the eyes, skin, nose and throat can occur as well as contact dermatitis.
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- "Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal"; Eric Schlosser; 2002
- U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Chemical Sampling Information Benzaldehyde
- "The N.A.R.D. Journal"; The Everyday Handy Formulary; July 1917
- The Flavorist Toolbox: The Science in Artificial Flavor Creation
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)
- ChemicalLand21: Benzaldehyde