Want a little beaver secretion with your candy or beverage? You will be disturbed to know that Castoreum is a popular food additive which is used in perfumes, and added to food as a flavor ingredient. This ‘food additive’ is a brown, oily, bitter, orange-brown secretion. It is found in the sacs between the anus, and the external genitals of both male and female beavers. The discharge is combined with the beaver’s urine, which it commonly uses to mark its territory with its scent. After beavers are skinned for their fur, the glands are taken out, usually smoked or sun dried, and then sold.
- alcoholic beverages
- baked goods
- soft candy & chewing gum
- frozen dairy
- meat products
- non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages
Castoreum is considered a GRAS [Generally Recognized as Safe] food additive in the United States by the FDA. Acute toxicity studies in animals have indicated that castoreum extract is nontoxic by both oral, and dermal routes of administration. Also, castoreum is not irritating or phototoxic to skin. it appears that low-level, and long-term exposure to castoreum extract does not pose any health risk. Of course, the FDA also takes this stance in regard to plastics, where more definitive research exists.
But, don’t we have a legal right to know? One would hope that they could be informed of what ingredients are included in the products they are purchasing and consuming. But castoreum has been included, by the FDA, in the umbrella category “Natural Flavor”, and there is unfortunately “no need” to list any such ingredients more specifically.
Castoreum extract is a natural product which is prepared by direct hot-alcohol extraction of castoreum. The additive is often referred to as ‘natural flavoring’, in the products’ list of ingredients. It is mainly used as artificial vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry flavoring in the foods and beverages that we consume. Not surprisingly, most companies do not list their food ingredients on their website. In order to find out if a product you prefer has castoreum included in its contents, it is best to contact the company directly and ask them. Currently N&S Trading is the biggest exporter of Castoreum.