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What are natural and synthetic flavours ?

Flavours are (mixtures of) substances used to give taste and/or smell to food. Different classes of flavours are defined by law, such as natural, natural-identical or artificial flavouring substances, flavouring preparations of plant or animal origin, process flavourings and smoke flavourings.

  • Natural flavourings are flavouring substances or flavouring preparations which are extracted from vegetable or animal materials and are not further chemically modified or changed. An example is vanilla extract.
  • Natural identical flavourings are substances that are chemically identical to natural substances, but which are obtained by chemical processes or by chemical modification of other natural substances. An example is vanillin, which is identical to the vanillin in vanilla, but not obtained from vanilla pods.
  • Artificial (or synthetic) flavourings are substances obtained by chemical synthesis or chemical modification of natural substances, but which are not present in natural products.
  • A flavouring preparation is a product from natural origin, but which is not highly purified. For example concentrated apple juice can be defined as a flavouring preparation.
  • Process flavourings are substances that are formed from natural substances upon processing, mainly heating. A common example is caramel, which is produced by heating sugars.
  • A smoke flavouring means a smoke extract used in traditional foodstuffs smoking processes. These are obtained by collecting the smoke into a fluid, which can be applied in a different production process.

The EU has provided a list of flavouring compounds that can be used in foods. This list (74 pages) can be found at : and an additional register at .

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