Everyone Is Asking Where Vanilla Flavouring Comes From But You Truly Don’t Want To Know

TikTok made us ask the question, now we wish we hadn't...

Woman drinking vanilla latte

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

TikTok has the ability to make us ponder earth’s most important questions. Why are women so hilarious? Why are straight couples so intensely cringy? Why, oh why, do teen boys insist on taking their tops off and gyrating to Chris Brown songs? It’s an app that truly takes you through a whirlwind of emotions, and that has never been truer than the latest, viral video.

Now, there are a lot of viral videos of TikTok - that’s literally the entire point of the app - but this video is SO viral, it’s inspired more than 200,000 people to turn to their nearest search engine and ask the question ‘Where does vanilla flavouring come from?’. That’s right, ‘Where does vanilla flavouring come from?’ is one of Google’s top trending searches in the UK right now, with people also asking ‘where does vanilla extract come from’ and ‘is vanilla extract and vanilla flavouring the same thing?’.

Why? All because of this TikTok.

So clearly, there’s something disgusting about vanilla flavouring that would cause us all to scream ‘NO MORE VANILLA’ upon finding out it’s origins. Googling ‘Where does vanilla flavouring come from?’ for you, we did just that, and it turns out it has a lot to do with Beaver’s bums.

Where does vanilla flavouring come from in the UK?

While vanilla extract largely comes from vanilla pods come from the orchids of the genus Vanilla, National Geographic reported in 2013 that some can also contain castoreum, a goo secreted from glands in Beavers bums. Yes, Beaver bum goo.

Beavers use their castoreum it to mark territory, and so humans have naturally stolen it to flavour their foods. Because, why would we leave Beavers arse's alone? According to a 2007 study in the International Journal of Toxicology, manufacturers have been using it extensively in perfumes and foods for at least 80 years with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration listing castoreum as a “generally regarded as safe” additive.

‘Castoreum is a chemical compound that mostly comes from a beaver’s castor sacs, which are located between the pelvis and the base of the tail,’ National Geographic reported. ‘Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, castoreum is often a combination of castor gland secretions, anal gland secretions, and urine.’

Because of Beaver’s unique bark-based diet their anal secretions tend to smell really good, a musky vanilla scent that has led food scientists to incorporate it into recipes. Another day to find out how truly strange humans are.

Now, you don’t have to go throwing all your vanilla extract out mind. According to Fenaroli’s Handbook of Flavor Ingredients, only about 132 kilograms of castoreum is consumed yearly, including castoreum, castoreum extract, and castoreum liquid. So, it’s not in every brand of vanilla flavouring.

The tricky part is though, you wouldn’t know. Because it’s approved by food regulators, manufacturers can list castoreum as ‘natural flavouring’, meaning you won’t know you’ve been consuming it. Hey, what you don’t know can’t hurt you… right? (Cries in Beaver secretion).

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