Flavouring agents are key food additives with hundreds of varieties like fruit, nut, seafood, spice blends, vegetables and wine which are natural flavouring agents. Besides natural flavours there are chemical flavours that imitate natural flavours. Some examples of chemical flavouring agents are alcohols that have a bitter and medicinal taste, esters are fruity, ketones and pyrazines provide flavours to caramel, phenolics have a smokey flavour and terpenoids have citrus or pine flavour.
According to Codex Alimentarius “flavourings or flavouring substances are added to food to impart aroma or taste. Like other food additives their use should not present an unacceptable risk to human health and should not mislead consumers. The quantity added to foods should be at the lowest level necessary to achieve the intended flavouring effect. Flavours and flavouring substances should also be of appropriate food grade quality; and be prepared and handled in the same way as a food ingredient.”
Flavours are used as additives to enhance, modify the taste and the aroma in natural food products which could have got lost due to food processing. Flavours are also used to create flavours in foods like candies and snacks that do not have likeable flavours of their own. Flavours are normally classified into three categories natural flavouring and artificial flavourings and nature-identical flavourings.
Natural flavouring substances are extracted from plants, herbs and spices, animals, or microbial fermentations. Essential oils and oleoresins that are created by solvent extract with the solvent removed, herbs, spices and sweetness are all natural flavourings. Natural flavourings can be either used in their natural form or processed form for human consumption and they cannot contain any nature-identical or artificial flavouring substances.
The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines natural flavourings as “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”
Artificial flavouring agents are chemically similar to natural flavourings but are more easily available and less expensive. However, one drawback is that they may not be an exact copy of the natural flavourings they are imitating like amyl acetate which is used as banana flavouring or ethyl butyrate for pineapple.
Nature-identical flavouring agents are the flavouring substances that are obtained by synthesis or are isolated through chemical processes. There chemical make-up of artificial flavourings is identical to their natural counterparts. These flavouring agents cannot contain any artificial flavouring substances.
Besides this category there are also natural flavour enhancers like monosodium glutamate (MSG) which bring out the flavours of foods. They have a taste that is different and cannot be called any of the known flavours like sweet, sour, salty or bitter. In fact the taste of MSG is called ‘umami’ and is known as the fifth taste also found in high protein foods like meat. Monosodium glutamate was once derived from seaweed but now it is manufactured commercially by the fermentation of starch, molasses, or sugar.
What FSSAI says
Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011 have described flavouring agents under the head ‘Flavouring Agents and Related Substances’ in the Regulations.
Flavouring agents include flavour substances, flavour extracts or flavour preparations, which are capable of imparting flavouring properties, namely taste or odour or both to food. Flavouring agents may be of following three types:
- Natural Flavours and Natural Flavouring substances means flavour preparations and single substance respectively, acceptable for human consumption, obtained exclusively by physical processes from vegetables, for human consumption
- Nature-Identical Flavouring Substances means substances chemically isolated from aromatic raw materials or obtained synthetically; they are chemically identical to substances present in natural products intended for human consumption, either processed or not.
- Artificial Flavouring Substances means those substances which have not been identified in natural products intended for human consumption either processed or not.
Use of anti-oxidants, emulsifying and stabilising agents and food preservatives in flavour
The flavouring agents may contain permitted anti-oxidants, emulsifying and stabilising agents and food preservatives.
Use of Anticaking agent in flavours – Synthetic Amorphous Silicon Dioxide may be used in powder flavouring substances to a maximum level of 2 per cent.
Restriction on use of flavouring agents the flavouring agents named below are not permitted for use in any article of food
- Coumarin and dihydrocoumarin;
- Tonkabean (Dipteryl adorat);
- β-asarone and cinamyl anthracilate.
- Ethyl Methyl Ketone
- Eugenyl methyl ether
- Methyl β napthyl Ketone
- Saffrole and Isosaffrole
- Thujone and Isothujone α & β thujone
Solvent in flavour
Diethylene Glycol and Monoethyl ether, shall not be used as solvent in flavours.
Use of Flavour Enhancers
Monosodium Glutamate may be added to foods as per the provisions contained in the Regulations subject to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) level and under proper label declaration as provided in Regulation of Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011. It shall not be added to any food for use by infant below twelve months and in the following foods.
List of foods where Monosodium Glutamate is not allowed
- Milk and Milk Products including Buttermilk, Fermented and renneted milk products (plain) excluding dairy based drink.
- Pasteurized cream, Sterilised, UHT, whipping or whipped and reduced fat creams.
- Fats and Oils, Pulses, Oil seeds and grounded/ powdered food grains, Food grains, Sago,
- Butter and concentrated butter, Margarine, Fat Spread
- Fresh fruit, Surface treated fruit, Peeled or cut fruit.
- Fresh vegetables, Frozen vegetables.
- Pastas and noodles (only dried products).
- Fresh meat, poultry and game, whole pieces or cuts or comminuted. Fresh fish and fish products, including mollusks, crustaceans and echinoderms. Processed fish and fish products, including mollusks, crustaceans and echinoderms.
- Fresh eggs, Liquid egg products, Frozen egg products.
- White and semi-white sugar (sucrose and saccharose, fructose, glucose (dextrose), xylose, sugar solutions and syrups, also (partially) inverted sugars, including molasses, treacle and sugar toppings. Other sugars and syrups (e.g. brown sugar and maple syrup),
- Honey, Saccharine
- Salt, Herbs, spices and condiments, seasoning (including salt substitutes) except seasoning for Noodles and Pastas, meat tenderizers, onion salt, garlic salt, oriental seasoning mix, topping to sprinkle on rice, fermented soya bean paste, Yeast.
- Infant food and Infant milk substitute including infant formulae and follow-on formulate, Foods for young children (weaning foods).
- Natural Minerals water and Packaged Drinking water, Carbonated Water
- Concentrates (liquid and solid) for fruit juices.
- Canned or bottled (pasteurized) fruit nectar.
- Coffee and coffee substitutes, tea, herbal infusions, and other cereal beverages excluding cocoa.
- Wines, Alcoholic Beverage
- Fruits and Vegetables products except those where Monosodium Glutamate is permitted under these Regulations.
- Baking Powder, Arrowroot
- Plantation Sugar, Jaggery and Bura,
- Ice-Candies, Ice cream and Frozen desserts.
- Cocoa Butter
- Malted Milk Food and Milk based foods
- Sugar Confectionery, Toffee, Lozenges, Chocolate
- Pan Masala