Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The nastiest thing you've been eating your whole life

In case you didn't now - that nifty artificial raspberry flavor comes from... wait for it... a beaver's ass! Hooray for food scientists! Double hooray for the FDA! I um... shit thee not. Castoreum is extracted from beaver anal glands, and is used to produce artificial raspberry and vanilla flavors in cheaper ice creams, Jell-O, candy, fruit-flavored drinks, yogurts and teas. According to American Midland Naturalist magazine, castoreum is manufactured from yellowish secretions of the "castor sac", which is combined with beaver urine when the creatures mark their territory: “Both male and female beavers possess a pair of castor sacs and a pair of anal glands located in two cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail.”

George A. Burdock and professor Giovanni Fenaroli explain that when a beaver is killed, castoreum is removed and sun- or fire-dried.

“The fresh pouch contains a yellowish, butter-like mass with a fetid, sharp, aromatic odor. The dried pouch is dark-brown, hard and resinous. Castoreum has a warm, animal-sweet odor, becoming more pleasant on dilution.”

Check out the video of chef Jamie Oliver on the Late Show With David Letterman: Svendsen, G.E., Huntsman, W.D, "A field Assay of Beaver Castoreum and Some of its Components," American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 120, No. 1 (Jul., 1988), pp. 144–149, University of Notre Dame. Update: And if you harbor any doubts, here's a summary of a human consumption safety risk assessment published at the National Institutes of Health:

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