Beaver anal secretions a vanilla substitute in some foods

If stories about gross foods make you queasy, you may want to click away now. (May we suggest this adorable video about an elephant and dog who are best friends.)

If you have a hearty constitution and are still with us, we commend you. Consider yourself forewarned.

Recently, The Swedish National Food Agency confirmed what's long been a rumor on the internet: Anal secretions from beavers can be used as a vanilla-like flavoring in food.

The beaver's anal gland secretes Castoreum which can be used as a food additive. 

According to Health.com, while it sounds downright disgusting, the FDA says it’s GRAS, meaning it’s “generally recognized as safe.” You won’t see this one on the food label because it’s generally listed as “natural flavoring.” 

The story has been around on the internet for a while and gained attention in 2011 when chef Jamie Oliver talked about Castoreum on "The Late Show with David Letterman". Snopes.com has even evaluated the rumor and declared it true.

Consumer blog Savvy Saving Bytes wrote about Castoreum and found a food industry eBook published in 2005 that lists foods and beverages that may contain Castoreum extract. The list includes alcoholic beverages, baked goods, gelatins/puddings, ice cream, soft candy, chewing gum and more.

So the next you see "natural flavorings" listed as an ingredient on your favorite baked good or vanilla ice cream, try not to think about just how natural that flavoring might be.

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