It is really more than “scent” but I didn’t want to totally gross everyone out in the title. What is castoreum you ask? From the Health.com website:
What it is: Brace yourself—this food flavoring is extracted from the castor sac scent glands of the male or female beaver, which are located near the anus. According to Milkowski, the substance is pretty expensive (think about what it probably takes to obtain it) and is more common in perfume than in actual foods.
Where you’ll find it: While it sounds downright disgusting, the FDA says it’s GRAS, meaning it’s “generally recognized as safe.” You won’t see this one on the food label because it’s generally listed as “natural flavoring.” It’s natural all right—naturally icky.
When Mark trapped beaver there was very little that went to waste. We fed all but the feet, heads and guts (which can make the dogs sick) to our sled dogs and Mark was sure to extract the castor as he would re-use it as scent bait on his traps or sell it as it was more valuable than the hide itself.
What foods could you find castoreum in:
- alcoholic beverages
- baked goods
- frozen dairy
- chewing gum
- meat products
- ice cream
- vanilla flavoring
- raspberry flavored food
This is what PubMed.com has to say about castoreum:
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.
I don’t know about you but I don’t trust the statement of “generally” regarded as safe. Once again, it is SO important to read labels and if you can, make your own foods, stay away from processed as much as possible and cleanse your body regularly as we really do not know what is in our foods these days.