Where does vanilla flavoring come from?
This is the questions that TikTok user @Sloowmoee urged his followers to look up — because evidently, the answer is disturbing.
In a video, @Sloowmoee recorded himself looking the question up in real time. Based on his reaction, he wasn’t too pleased with what he learned.
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“NO MORE VANILLA,” @Sloowmoee screamed as he started to gag a little. “THAT IS — AHHHHHH.”
What @Sloowmoee learned with his quick Google search is that some vanilla flavoring is made from a flavorant called castoreum. This is a waxy substance secreted by beavers via their castor sacs (located near the base of the tail) that “can be used as a modifier in vanilla flavors” and “natural fruit, meat and vegetable flavors,” per the Dictionary of Flavors. It’s also often used in the perfume industry thanks to its fragrant notes.
“You can milk the anal glands so you can extract the fluid,” Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University, explained to National Geographic. “You can squirt [castoreum] out. It’s pretty gross.”
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The last thing anybody wants to learn is that one of their favorite flavorings comes from a beaver’s butt. However, according to National Geographic, only about 292 pounds of castoreum is produced annually, largely because “milking” a beaver for the substance is an expensive and cumbersome process. (It doesn’t hurt the beaver to be milked.) Most vanilla flavoring today, as you’d expect, is made from vanilla pods or synthetic vanillin.
Though castoreum isn’t nearly as popular as it once was, TikTok users were still disturbed by what they learned after looking up the origin of vanilla flavoring.
“I’m gonna go cry now,” one person said after a quick Google search.
“Scarred for life,” another added.
“That just RUINED VANILLA for me,” a third wrote.
It’s hard to know which products today contain castoreum. Since the FDA regards the substance as a natural flavoring, companies don’t actually have to disclose it on the ingredient list. Ignorance is bliss!
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if you liked this story, check out In The Know’s article on the top 10 “secret” fast food menu items.
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