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The Science of Artificial Flavoring?


The Science of Artificial Flavoring?

Last November, CBS 60 Minutes aired a piece titled  “The Flavorists: Tweaking Tastes and Creating Cravings.” If you missed it, it’s quite fascinating. We might all subconsciously know that artificial flavors are intended to get you coming back for more. But a look inside the operations of one of the world’s largest flavoring companies might make you think twice about the science behind it all. Take a look…


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If you have ever scanned labels on processed foods and wondered about the “artificial flavors” and how flavors came to be “artificial” — not to mention irresistible and even addicting — the CBS 60 Minutes report “The Flavorists: Tweaking Tastes and Creating Cravings” is quite illuminating. The segment was broadcast on Sunday, November 27, 2011, and offering a rare look at of the food flavoring industry. Morley Safer interviewed scientists who work for the largest flavoring company in the world, Givaudan — a Swiss company of 9,000 employees in in 45 countries –and cameras were allowed access in some facilities, as well as along on a hunt through nature in search of natural flavors which the scientists would then recreate and modify in the laboratory.

You can see the full replay video above. An excerpt from the transcript is below, in which former FDA commissioner David Kessler, M.D., author of The End of Overeating, a critic of the food industry’s practices, has some strong words on these seductive and addicting flavors.

Ground zero for the food and flavor industry is the supermarket. Givaudan won’t reveal which brands contain their flavors, but in this aisle, almost every product on the shelves has been enhanced artificially or with so-called natural flavors.

And not only that, virtually everything edible in a package, in a jar, or in a can is intensified with either fat, sugar or salt… or, all three of those little devils.

Dr. David Kessler: We’re eating fat on fat on sugar on fat with flavor. And much of what we’re eating with these flavors, you have to ask yourself, ‘is it really food?’

Dr. David Kessler is the former head of the FDA. He is Dr. No. He’s bent on getting America to kick its bad habits.

Kessler: We’re living in a food carnival. These flavors are so stimulating, they hijack our brain.

Kessler believes flavorists are accomplices – the hired guns of the food industry.

Kessler: They make food super palatable.

Safer: But what– what’s wrong with that? Don’t we want the richness of good taste?

Kessler: Of course. Food has to be pleasurable. It has to be desirable. But look around, Morley. Look around this country and what do you see? Ask the rest of the world how they view Americans and they will say, ‘We don’t want to look like them.’

Check out the full story and transcript at

It certainly reinforces what we are learning in recent years, thanks to these kinds of exposes. And, too scientific studies are showing that resisting foods is not a matter of “will power” or strength of character but instead, a literal battle against encroaching — or perhaps already engulfing — addiction that is just as real as cocaine or nicotine addition. It’s hard to see these practices as anything less than unconscionable given the tragic toll they are taking on public health.