As I was roaming the aisles of my local supermarket looking for snacks I had came across something so disturbing that it stopped me dead in my tracks. It was the infamous Grapple! Yes, you read that right; the Grapple. Truth be told, I had never heard of such a thing in my life. A piece of fruit that looks like a Fuji apple; I’m sorry, a Washington state EXTRA Fancy Fuji apple (big whoop), but tastes like a Concord grape. As I reached for the plastic four count packet the amazingly strong odor smacked me across the schnoz like a bag of Jolly Ranchers on steroids. What are the ingredients you ask? Apples, natural and artificial flavors. My curiosity got the better of me as I threw the synthetic crystal pack of apples in my hand basket and headed to the checkout line. It took an unnatural stench of fake grapes to finally get to the bottom of these meaningless and ubiquitous terms.
What the hell is “artificial flavoring?” It’s on so many Nutritional Labels and yet if you go out and ask the first twenty people you see after reading this I’d be willing to bet a thousand dollars that none of them would be able to give you a very good answer. Well, maybe I wouldn’t bet you that much… Actually, I wouldn’t bet you anything at all but with some certainty I can tell you that not one answer, if any answers could be given, would be consistent. So what is it? The Federal Government via the Code of Federal Regulations (21CFR101) gives us a hint as to what it is:
The term artificial flavor or artificial flavoring means any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof. Artificial flavor includes the substances listed in Sec. Sec. 172.515(b) and 182.60 of this chapter except where these are derived from natural sources.[i]
Okay. Well, that’s the legal explanation I guess. It actually lets a little room for the imagination to roam doesn’t it?
I’m guessing that the artificial flavors in the “soaked” Grapple have something to do with methyl anthranilate along with one or more of the following: ethyl butyrate, ethyl thiolactate, ethyl-3-hydroxy butyrate and furaneol (2,5-dimethyl -4-hydroxy-3(2H)-furanone). According to flavorist Frank Fischetti, methyl antranilate is an “impact item,” which acts as the necessary compound to make an artificial Concord grape flavor.[ii] Together with a “contributory item,” such as ethyl butyrate or ethyl-3-hydroxy butyrate, the flavor is created and/or enhanced. Like I said, I’m guessing. Which is all one can do when you’ve got a sweeping definition like the one in the CFR. Thanks Federal Government!
The next time you read “artificial flavors” on the next box of cereal you buy just imagine the possibilities.
By the way, the Grapple sucked. It kind of tastes like that half melted Sweet Tart candy that’s been sitting in bottom of that cup holder in the backseat of your car for the past year and a half. Imagine that one!