The recent Romaine lettuce recall—two in the last year—has turned the leafy green industry upside down. Flashbacks of the 2006 spinach recall in California’s Salinas Valley haunt the area’s farmers, the same farmers who after the 2006 outbreak implemented stringent practices through the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement aimed at stopping the next outbreak.

But it happened again. Why?

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When you go to the store and pick up a container of strawberry yogurt, you probably don’t put much thought into how it gets its strawberry flavor. Does it contain actual strawberries or does it only contain an artificial flavor? Both natural and artificial flavors are frequently used to impart or enhance specific flavors in food products.

Before we delve into how natural and artificial flavors affect labeling, let’s look at the difference between the two. The FDA considers a natural flavor to be an additive to a product, “which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” So, natural flavors generally come from plant or animal sources, such as the natural strawberry flavor for a yogurt. Conversely, any substance used to flavor a product that is not derived from one of the sources listed in the natural flavors definition is considered an artificial flavor by the FDA. Continue Reading