the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) and the European Beaver (Castor fiber). Within the zoological realm, castoreum is the yellowish secretion of the castor sac in combination with the beaver’s urine, used during scent marking of territory. Both male and female beavers possess a pair of castor sacs and a pair of anal glands located in two cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail.
Why do I mention this? Well, according to the natural-products company Conscious Box, castoreum is commonly used as a food flavoring.
Snopes confirms that castoreum serves as an additive to enhance strawberry and raspberry flavors “in products such as iced tea, ice cream, gelatin, candy, fruit-flavored drinks, and yogurt.”
So yes, it’s probably in red gummi bears.Research has found “no reports of human adverse reactions” from “long historical use of castoreum extract as a flavoring and fragrance ingredient.”
For my part, I’m not that worried about however gross castoreum may seem. For one thing, it’s not that much grosser than other things we eat. (Seriously, go read the ingredient list on a package of chorizo.)
Second, the major complaint seems to be that it is billed as a “natural” ingredient,. but what could be more “natural” than something that came directly out of an animal? Okay, I get that it is not a “natural raspberry flavor,” but maybe the real problem is that the FDA and food companies are very coy about the meaning of the word “natural.” I do think they should work on that.
I am reminded of the “Fry and the Slurm Factory” episode of Futurama, when Fry gets to visit the Wonka-esque factory where his favorite addictive beverage is manufactured. A species of slug-like creatures run the factory on the planet Wormulon, but Fry accidentally discovers the real factory, where the Slurm Queen produces all of the Slurm by herself. It’s not a pretty sight.
So yeah, it could be worse. Even after learning the disgusting secret of Slurm, however, Fry kept drinking it, either because he was addicted or because it was just. that. good. (Most likely because he was addicted.)
Now admit it—you’re not going to give up red gummi bears any more than I am.