Some foods and drinks are labeled “naturally flavored” and others “artificially flavored.” What’s the difference? (Asked by a curious culinary reader.) Reply: First, a little flavorful background. Flavor is a sensory impression of a food or other substance that is determined by the chemical senses of taste and smell. (Senses also detect chemical irritants in the nose and throat.) The flavor of a food can be altered with natural or artificial flavorings. Of these senses, smell mainly determines a food’s flavor. The taste of food is limited to sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory, while there are a huge number of smells. There are three main types of flavorings used in food: n Natural flavorings. These are substances obtained from plant or animal raw materials by physical, microbiological or enzyme processes. They can be in their natural state or processed for human consumption. n Nature-identical flavorings. These are substances obtained by chemical processes that are chemically identical to natural flavorings. (Sort of generic flavorings, such as generic drugs.) n Artificial flavorings. These are substances not identified in natural substances, whether or not the products are processed. Because of the unavailability or the high cost of natural flavorings, most commercial products contain nature-identical flavorings. The strawberry taste in ice cream or smell from strawberry jam is usually a nature-identical flavoring, whereas a sugar taste is probably an artificial flavoring. Flavorings are also added to liquids, such as soft drinks, to give them a distinctive smell. What’s the difference, health-wise? Artificial flavorings give you a bunch of chemicals with hard-to-pronounce names. But, these undergo testing before being sold for consumption. In contrast, natural flavorings may contain other substances than the flavorings. The natural origins of substances do not imply that they are totally safe to consume. However, most are tested by long-term usage. Artificial flavorings, on the other hand, have standards of purity and consistency, generally imposed by law. Take your pick! In any case, the world without flavorings would be pretty bland. C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “Life expectancy would grow leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled like bacon.” — Doug Larson

Some foods and drinks are labeled “naturally flavored” and others “artificially flavored.” What’s the difference? (Asked by a curious culinary reader.)

Reply: First, a little flavorful background. Flavor is a sensory impression of a food or other substance that is determined by the chemical senses of taste and smell. (Senses also detect chemical irritants in the nose and throat.) The flavor of a food can be altered with natural or artificial flavorings.

Of these senses, smell mainly determines a food’s flavor. The taste of food is limited to sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory, while there are a huge number of smells. There are three main types of flavorings used in food:

n Natural flavorings. These are substances obtained from plant or animal raw materials by physical, microbiological or enzyme processes. They can be in their natural state or processed for human consumption.

n Nature-identical flavorings. These are substances obtained by chemical processes which are chemically identical to natural flavorings. (Sort of generic flavorings, like generic drugs.)

n Artificial flavorings. These are substances not identified in natural substances, whether or not the products are processed.

Because of the unavailability or the high cost of natural flavorings, most commercial products contain nature-identical flavorings. The strawberry taste in ice cream or smell from strawberry jam is usually a nature-identical flavoring, whereas a sugar taste is probably an artificial flavoring. Flavorings are also added to liquids, such as soft drinks, to give them a distinctive smell.

What’s the difference, health-wise? Artificial flavorings give you a bunch of chemicals with hard-to-pronounce names. But, these undergo testing before being sold for consumption. In contrast, natural flavorings may contain other substances than the flavorings. The natural origins of substances do not imply that they are totally save to consume. However, most are tested by long-term usage. Artificial flavorings, on the other hand, have standards of purity and consistency, generally imposed by law. Take your pick!

In any case, the world without flavorings would be pretty bland.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “Life expectancy would grow leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled like bacon.” — Doug Larson

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or email jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to curiosity-corner.net.

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or email jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to curiosity-corner.net.