Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Flavourings can be either natural or artificial, and they are added to many foods made in a factory. There are also so-called nature-identical flavourings, which are the chemical equivalent of natural flavours, only chemically synthesised rather than being extracted from the original source.
To produce artificial flavours, the volatile substance that produces the natural flavour must first be extracted from the source substance. The methods of extraction can involve boiling, leeching, or using force to squeeze it out. This concentrated extract is then passed through a chromatograph, either in liquid or gaseous form. This will provide the requisite information about how the molecules are structured that are needed to produce the taste. The compound is then artificially replicated by the chemist, although it is often difficult to produce an exact match to the original flavour.
Many of the compounds used to produce artificial flavours belong to a chemical category of esters. The list of known flavouring agents includes hundreds of molecular compounds, and the food scientist can often mix these together to produce many of the common flavours.
Flavour enhancers are also used to augment the taste of foods.
The compounds used to produce artificial flavours are almost identical to those that occur naturally, and a natural origin for a substance does not necessarily imply that it is safe to consume. In fact, artificial flavours are considered somewhat safer to consume than natural flavours. Natural flavours may contain toxins from their sources while artificial flavours are typically more pure and are required to undergo more testing before being sold for consumption.
Legal definition (US)
According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, a natural flavor is "the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, 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 any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."  An artificial flavor is one that does not meet the specifications listed above.
- Food additive
- Monosodium glutamate, commonly known as MSG
- E number
- Fragrance oil
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