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Artificial flavorings are combinations of many chemicals, both natural and synthetic.  An artificial flavoring may be composed of hundreds of separate chemicals, and there is no restriction on what a company can use to flavor food.

Artificial Vanillin

One source for imitation vanilla flavoring (called “vanillin”) is the waste product of paper mills.  Some companies built factories next to the pulp mills to turn the undesirable lignin-containing  waste product into imitation flavoring.  Most vanillin today, however, is made from the petrochemicals guaiacol and glyoxylic acid (US Patent Office #2,640,083-1953).   Vanilla can also be made from rice bran; it is made by the action of microorganisms on the ferulic acid extracted from the rice bran.  While the result is expensive, it can be labeled “natural.”

The only vanilla accepted for the Feingold Program’s Foodlist  is vanilla that actually came from a vanilla bean.

Other Flavorings

Besides the single flavoring (vanillin) that is usually listed by name, there are more than a thousand unlabeled flavorings added to foods.  They can be made from almost anything, and a whole industry is built upon developing new and cheaper flavorings to be used to enhance or replace real food ingredients in the products you buy.  In 2000, R. Kroes introduced the “Threshold of Toxicological Concern” and the “De Minimis Principle” … both of which mean that in their opinion “a little bit can’t hurt” and new chemicals used for flavoring no longer have to be tested for safety since they are used in small amounts.

Check out some gross things you can find in your artificial flavorings!


Avoid anything — food, toiletries, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, art supplies, even toys — that has perfume or fragrance.  Synthetic fragrance is made from a variety of chemicals, none of which are actually listed on the product. Most are petrochemical sources, and quite a few are recognized as neurological toxins by scientists.  When inhaled, they can directly affect the brain, where they can trigger an immediate reaction.  Fragrances can also be absorbed through the skin.

Some of the chemicals commonly used in perfumes, cleaning supplies, and even children’s toys, have been shown to cause adverse effects in animals.  These effects may include difficulty moving or walking, respiratory tract irritation, narcotic-like effects, hyperactivity, irritability, liver damage, spasms, and death.

Fragrances are not under FDA regulation and are not required to be tested for safety.

When not tested by the manufacturer, there is supposed to be a note put on the label; however, this requirement is not monitored by anyone.

A very sensitive person can react to salicylates or other chemicals found in some natural fragrances.  Therefore, it is best to use only unscented products at first.  Later, when you have had a good response to the diet, you may experimentally add natural fragrances to learn what you tolerate.  We even provide a Guide to Products with Natural Fragrance to help you.

Some people use essential oils to address health issues or improve mood.  Like other natural fragrances, we suggest you avoid them at the beginning of the Program and they can be introduced later in the same way as salicylates.   (Refer to the Handbook for details).  We have had reports from members who are able to enjoy good quality essential oils without any problem, but get headaches or other reactions if they use the cheaper oils which are apparently adulterated with petrochemical fragrances.

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