Food Safety: Vanilla-like, from the Butt of Beavers

A flavorant from the butt of beavers underwent a safety assessment:

Safety Assessment of Castoreum Extract as a Food Ingredient,” Ge0rge A. Burdock [pictured here], International Journal of Toxicology, vol. 26, no. 1, 2007, pp. 51-55. The author, of the Burdock Group, Washington, DC, explains:

george-burdock-photo“Castoreum extract (CAS NO. 8023–83–4; FEMA NO. 2261) is a natural product prepared by direct hot-alcohol extraction of castoreum, the dried and macerated castor sac scent glands (and their secretions) from the male or female beaver. It has been used extensively in perfumery and has been added to food as a flavor ingredient for at least 80 years. Both the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regard castoreum extract as generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Acute toxicity studies in animals indicate that castoreum extract is nontoxic by both oral and dermal routes of administration and is not irritating or phototoxic to skin. Skin sensitization has not been observed in human subject tests. Castoreum extract possesses weak antibacterial activity. A long historical use of castoreum extract as a flavoring and fragrance ingredient has resulted in no reports of human adverse reactions. On the basis of this information, low-level, long-term exposure to castoreum extract does not pose a health risk. The objective of this review is to evaluate the safety-in-use of castoreum extract as a food ingredient.”

The Local reports, recently:

Beaver butt secretion good for baking: agency

The Swedish National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) has confirmed that anal secretions from the beaver can be used to provide a taste similar to vanilla in baked goods and sweets.

Information that beaver bottoms can be a source of vanilla aroma, in the form of Castoreum, have been circulating on the internet recently and the agency has now confirmed that there is substance to the secretions.

“Natural aromas can be extracts from plants, fungi, and in some cases animals. The labelling provisions do not require that the kind of flavour is indicated, with the exception of coffee and quinine,” Ulla Beckman Sundh at the agency said.

Vanilla flavour, it has been established, is not only derived from the vanilla bean. It can also come from conifer trees, or indeed from the anal passage of a beaver….

BONUS (about an alternate source material for vanilla flavor): The 2007 Ig Noble Prize for chemistry was awarded to Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin — vanilla fragrance and flavoring— from cow dung. [REFERENCE: “Novel Production Method for Plant Polyphenol from Livestock Excrement Using Subcritical Water Reaction,” Mayu Yamamoto, International Journal of Chemical Engineering, vol. 2008.]

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