Too Good to be True



I lost my innocence at age 27. It was the day I realized what is on a food label may not really be what is in the food.

Is it natural or artificial?

When the analytical tests showed that the “natural” food flavor I was trying to copy was actually artificial, I was shocked. Now, I look back and think how unreasonable I was. People lie to make money, it exists in every market and food is no exception. When it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not true.

The only way to know if a food flavor has artificial chemicals added is to run an assay on Gas Chromatography (GC), Mass Spectrometer (MS) or perhaps to do Carbon Isotope Testing.  Even then, a person skilled at cheating and lying can may still be able to hide the truth.

Although, I’ve lost my innocence, I’m not a cynic. I do not believe all people are selfish and are only interested in helping themselves, but I know some people are. I believe most people are more concerned about their reputation than making a “quick buck”.

Regulatory Response

How do we put controls on the people who lie and cheat in the food world? Some consumer groups, Center for Food Safety, are asking that regulatory agencies should prohibit labeling terms, such as “natural”.  They argue that “corporations have profited from consumers”.

Have we become morally corrupt?

No, there has always been food fraud and there probably always will be food fraud. In the middle ages, ground nuts were added to expensive spices to increase the volume and increase profits. Two years ago, cumin bulked up with ground peanut shells was found in the market place after there were reports of allergic reactions.

The difference is that now we are in a global economy and it’s difficult to find where the adulteration occurred.

Should we trust our food supply and the label?  I believe that most of the time we can trust reputable food companies and a label, but I’m no longer naïve enough to trust a label that is “too good to be true”.




  1. Hi Susie.
    Great & interesting read, but I have a question regarding the synthetic flavoring vs natural flavoring point you made early in your post.
    Certain flavors can be synthetically created in the lab and some can be obtained/extracted naturally, but in the end, it equals the same exact flavor chemical, right?
    Because looking at the SDS sheet for synthetic & natural Benzaldehyde, its still the same chemical.
    Does it really taste all that different even though its the same chemical?

    • Susie Bautista says:

      Hi Rob:
      Good point, most of the time we cannot sense the difference between natural and artificially derived flavor chemicals. In some instances, there are differences in purity which affect the sensory profile. For example, alpha terpineol may only be available as 95% purity in natural. Artificially derived flavor chemicals are typically purer (99.9%).

      Artificially derived (possibly from petroleum by-products) may have a very small amount of artificacts and this causes concern for some people. It’s important for us in the flavor industry to be honest and transparent with flavors (label correctly), so people can get what they want/pay for.

      Thanks for reading! Susie

there has always been food fraud and there probably always will be food fraud.
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