What are natural flavors?
Definitions for natural flavor can vary between countries. In the U.S., any flavor “derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional”, is considered a natural flavor1.

What are artificial flavors?
Artificial flavors are substances that add or enhance the flavor of food and beverages, but do not meet the definition of natural flavor.

Why are flavors added to foods and beverages?
Flavors are commonly added to meet consumer expectations and increase product tastefulness. They may be used in various forms such as liquids, powders, and gels.

Are artificial and natural flavors safe?
Ingredients used in confectionery products must meet U.S. government safety standards, including those established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA).

How do I know what flavors a product contains?
If a product contains a natural or artificial flavor, it will be listed in the ingredients statement as “natural flavor” or “artificial flavor”.

What happens when a flavor contains a food allergen?
U.S. FDA requires food and beverage companies to label eight major food allergens if present in an ingredient in the food: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. For example, if an allergen is present in a natural or artificial flavor, it could be listed as part of that ingredient [e.g. “artificial flavor (milk)”]. Alternatively, or additionally, the allergen could be included in an allergen statement at the end of the ingredient declaration [e.g. “contains milk”].

Sources:
1Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. CFR-Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 01 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.