Are Artificial Flavors Vegan?

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You see it on coffee, packaged foods, soups, protein powder, and more…“Artificial Flavors”.

Is this one of those sneaky non-vegan ingredients that you need to avoid, or can you actually eat artificial flavors with a good conscious?

It’s rather frustrating since all the ingredients label says is “artificial flavor,” and never expands on what that artificial flavor is.

Long story short, artificial flavors are vegan-friendly.

What Artificial Flavors Are Made From

I really think it’s useful to understand the core reason behind this.

Here’s a snippet from food labeling regulations for natural and artificial flavors. This is for the United States, but I imagine this particular set of definitions is pretty standard around the world.

The term artificial flavor or artificial flavoring means any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof.

Basically, “artificial flavor” can only refer to products not made from any typical plant or animal product.

How Artificial Flavors Are Made

This leaves sources like petroleum as options, as well as just synthetically creating chemicals in a lab.

For example, artificial strawberry flavor is actually methyl cinnamate, which is made using cinnamic acid and methyl alcohol.

The one concern is that they could be tested on animals. However, from what I’ve found, it’s not common. Most seem like they are tested initially, and then not again once deemed to be safe.

However, certain flavors like diacetyl (butter flavor) have been tested more than others because of safety concerns.

So this is kind of tricky. The vast majority of artificial flavors don’t seem to be tested much (if at all) on animals based on the lack of evidence I’ve found, but there are a few (out of hundreds) that are. 

I think that most vegans will feel like it’s reasonable to consider artificial flavors to be vegan, but I could certainly see some not feeling that way.

Are All Varieties of Artificial Flavors Vegan?

Now we know that if you see “artificial flavors” on an ingredient list, most will consider it vegan.

But what about “artificial beef flavor” or “artificial chicken flavor”?

You’ll often see these in foods like ramen.

These artificial flavors aren’t any different from other artificial flavors, it’s just more specifically labelled. However, you still want to check the ingredients for any animal products.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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