Where does vanilla come from? (Image Source: Shutterstock)
A viral Tik Tok trend has netizens asking: Where does vanilla come from? It all started when a Tik Tok user Sloowmoee took to the platform to post a challenge that requires people to simply film their reactions before and after searching for, "where does vanilla come from?" on Google, while preferably drinking a vanilla latte. The viral video found a fanbase of its own and saw many more people posting the same challenge on their profiles. Let's find out where the vanilla flavour actually comes from.
As per the viral National Geographic article, vanilla flavouring partly comes from a goo that is emitted from the Beaver's backside, which is known as castoreum. These wild animals actually secrete the goo to mark their territory. According to a 2007 study in the International Journal of Toxicology, beaver secretions have been popularly used in perfumes and foods for over 80 years now. Furthermore, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has officially listed castoreum as a “generally regarded as safe” additive.
Castoreum is reportedly produced in the beaver’s castor sacs that are located between the animal's pelvis and the base of the tail. Although in reality a faecal matter, these beaver secretions smell anything but that as the chemical compound is a "product of the beaver’s unique diet of leaves and bark". Instead, the brown slime has a musky and flavourful scent.
For those contemplating their life decisions and reconsidering buying vanilla flavour foods ever again, here's some good news. Reportedly, it's highly unlikely for people to have consumed it as it is not kosher. Castoreum is tough to produce, especially for purposes of food processing, and cannot be made in sizeable quantities at once. Therefore, people who are in charge of producing the end result do not venture into producing it in large quantities and only use it in some candles and perfume products.
As for foods and drinks, the vanilla flavour comes from either its natural source i.e. the Madagascar vanilla beans or a synthetic version of vanillin. These artificial vanillins are made out of guaiacol, which is essentially aromatic oil with guaiacum or wood creosote roots, or lignin that is typically found in the bark. In recent times, most food and beverages are made artificially.
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