Airdate: Nov 10, 2008
Scientist: Joan Harvey
KSC Flavor - Animal Derived
Beef and pork may not be listed in a candy's ingredients, but they're often used.
"In the past, we've used animals like the civet extract. And that comes from cats. You could use it in grape flavors, you could use it in wine flavors."
When you think about the ingredients in chewing gum or candy, you're probably not going to come up with beef, or pork, or did she say cats? I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Joan Harvey is a flavor chemist at a major candy company. She often looks for new ingredients to replace some old standbys. One such extract is harvested from the civet cat, a raccoon-like mammal from Asia. And prior to some health and ethical concerns, it was used heavily in the flavor and fragrance industries.
"When you have no animal derived products as a specification, you have to find an alternative for that. Some of them don't exist. So we're slowly eliminating some things off of our palate of tools"
Civet cats may sound a little extreme, but other animal ingredients are more familiar and widely used. Many candies use gelatin as their flavorless base, onto which different flavors are layered.
"Gelatin can come from beef and it can come from pork. And you have to be very careful on how you develop products based on those things. You know, how do we deliver that product without using animal derived? And sometimes the frustration of eliminating a tool makes you have to be more creative."
Vegetarian gelling agents do exist, and they're used in countries where religion prohibits animal-derivatives. But these alternatives are in limited supply, and flavorists like Joan Harvey are always on the lookout for new technologies.