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Source: National Geographic: Beaver Butts Emit Goo Used for Vanilla Flavoring

Beaver butts secrete a goo called castoreum, which the animals use to mark their territory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists castoreum as a “generally regarded as safe” additive, and manufacturers have been using it extensively in perfumes and foods for at least 80 years, according to a 2007 study in the International Journal of Toxicology.

[...]

Castoreum is a chemical compound that mostly comes from a beaver’s castor sacs, which are located between the pelvis and the base of the tail. Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, castoreum is often a combination of castor gland secretions, anal gland secretions, and urine.

[...]

Instead of smelling icky, castoreum has a musky, vanilla scent, which is why food scientists like to incorporate it in recipes.

My utmost apologies if you're having a desert/meal that consists of Vanilla flavoring let alone general food.

This claim disgusts me. Is it true?

  • 1
    If I understand correctly, "natural vanilla flavouring" is different to a "natural flavouring" occurring in a bottle of "vanilla flavouring". The former must be vanilla, the latter must taste like vanilla and not be artificial. I edited the question to match. – Oddthinking Feb 13 '16 at 6:36
  • @Oddthinking Edit approved and appreciated. – Haider Feb 13 '16 at 6:44
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This is a story that is no longer true.

Castoreum is expensive. While it is still used in perfume, there are better substitutes now for foods. (That is how the Castor Oil plant got its name; by offering a substitute for castoreum.)

The Vegetarian Resource Group were concerned about similar claims and wrote to five companies:

The VRG asked five companies that manufacture both natural and artificial vanilla, vanilla extracts, concentrates, distillates, powders, and flavors. All five unanimously stated that castoreum is not used today in any form of vanilla sold for human food use.

(Emphasis mine.)

Snopes investigated this and pointed out:

According to Fernelli's Handbook of Flavor Ingredients, total annual national consumption of castoreum, castoreum extract, and castoreum liquid combined is only about 292 pounds, which works out to an average of less than a millionth of a pound per person in the U.S. Compare that figure with the approximately 20 million pounds of vanilla naturally harvested from real vanilla beans every year. Depending upon as scarce a substance as castoreum to flavor the ice cream and candy found on store shelves would create nationwide shortages of those items and drive up their prices beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest consumers.

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