science of us

So You’re Saying My Seltzer Is Not Made of Crushed Up Bliss

Photo: Jennifer Smith/Getty Images

Sobering news out of the flavored-seltzer sector today: The natural flavorings that many of us have come to love and rely upon might not always be so natural after all. (Suspending for a moment the debate over what “natural” really means.)

While the government requires “natural flavoring” in food to come in some way from actual plant or animal sources, as Roni Caryn Rabin reports in her “Ask Well” column for the New York Times, when it comes to “non-organic” foods, like seltzer (and all other food products that are not grown organically), “natural flavoring” can essentially include artificial flavoring, too. (It is something of a “loophole,” she acknowledges.)

Which is to say that my Polar Mango Cherry Bliss seltzer might not have ever come from actual mangoes, cherries, or bliss — to say nothing of the brand’s mysterious “Mythical Creatures” seltzers, which include “yeti,” “mermaid,” and “minotaur” flavors.

As the first Times commenter, “david,” writes:

Didn’t know this information. O.K, I’ll say it: ‘NOW WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO’? Life’s just too short, and they’ve just taken away our ‘Natural Vanilla Ice Cream’.

(As Rabin notes, many non-organic foods contain these artificial “natural” flavorings.) Meanwhile, coincidentally (or not — are the stars fizzing?), I’d also just opened this old story from last year, from health writer Markham Heid, on whether or not drinking seltzer leads to weight gain. (One controversial study found that flavored seltzer might stimulate the hunger hormone, ghrelin.) And then there’s always the question of how much bisphenol A (BPA) there is in the lining of aluminum cans. (BPA is the estrogenlike synthetic compound that’s useful in storing consumer goods.) Dark times in the age of effervescence? Or is it all fine?

So You’re Saying My Seltzer Is Not Made of Crushed Up Bliss