I've been wondering for a while exactly what the words "natural flavor" mean when I see them listed in an ingredient list...
so I went hunting for the answer.
Under the Code of Federal Regulation, natural flavor is defined as “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating, enzymolysis (biochemical decomposition of a substance), which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, 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.”
Natural flavoring substances are obtained from plant or animal raw materials, containing no other artificial or added ingredients. Spices approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) such as black pepper and basil do not have to be listed under its specific name. Additives can also be listed under natural flavoring because they might meet FDA definition standards, the extraction process consider flavorings man-made. In addition, spice extracts, essential oils, oleoresins, onion powder/juice, and garlic powder/juice are allowed to be labeled under “flavor” or “natural flavor.”
So - when you see the words "natural flavor" in an ingredient list - it isn't manufacturer doublespeak for something born in a lab. It is the essential essence of a Clean food item.
I actually feel a little bit better about that!
Source: Common Food Safety Questions - USDA website