7 Dangerous Natural and Artificial Flavors Hiding In Your Food

Poison in a Pretty Package: The Labels Tell All

First of all, I’m not actually sure that I’d call Folgers “coffee.” I have very high standards for my cuppa joe and fatty coffee—it has to be freshly roasted, organic, and fair trade. But, at least Folgers coffee comes from a roasted bean.

This Folgers Flavors is a syrup that you’re supposed to pour into your coffee to make it taste like creamy delicious caramel… but at what cost?

Take a look at this ingredients list.

Really look at it.


None of what I am about to show you looks like a recipe for caramel, does it?

I’ve made caramel— never have I ever added a half cup of propylene glycol or a teaspoon of potassium sorbate.

Real caramel contains sugar, cream, butter and vanilla… or if you’re doing it Paleo style, it’s a puree of dates and coconut cream and vanilla and salt. Even though caramel wouldn’t be a food that I’d endorse eating all the time, at least it has recognizable real food components.

This coffee flavoring not only contains ingredients that are hard to pronounce, they are absolutely dangerous to your health. I’m not actually sure how this can be marketed as food! Let’s break it down ingredient by ingredient, shall we?

Propylene Glycol

According to the Agency for Toxic Substance & Disease Registry (ATSDR), propylene glycol is a synthetic chemical used to absorb liquid in substances that may leak and cause contamination. But, what I find so fascinating is that this chemical is used to make polyester compounds.

Wait, that’s not all— propylene glycol is widely used as an antifreeze in the cosmetic industry. It’s a mainstay component in chemical production, it’s used to maintain the moisture in pharmaceuticals and makeup, and it’s a solvent widely used in the paint and plastics industry.

Oh, yeah— and it’s labeled “generally accepted as safe” by the FDA… to eat!

Okay, I’m not sure why anyone would want to eat propylene glycol, but I can give you a bunch of reasons NOT to eat it.

Propylene glycol has been linked to:

  • cancer
  • reproductive issues
  • developmental delays
  • allergies
  • immune-toxicity
  • neurotoxicity
  • organ system toxicity
  • and serious disruption to your endocrine system

In as low as a 2% concentration, this chemical can seriously irritate the skin and provoke sensitization in human beings… and yet cosmetics can contain up to 50% concentration of propylene glycol!

It gets worse. Did you know that nutrition labels list the ingredients in order from highest to lowest concentration? So, that means this Folgers Flavors Caramel is packed with propylene glycol!


Alright, there’s not much I can say about water except I’m pretty sure their water isn’t sourced from a mountain spring. Moving on.

Natural and Artificial Flavors

Natural and artificial flavors both contain chemicals—the name the flavoring is given just hinges on the source of those chemicals. Natural flavors are derived from edible source like animals and plants and then usually processed in a lab to create an essence of sorts. Artificial flavoring only differs in that it’s derived from inedible sources, like petroleum.

The problem with natural and artificial flavors on a nutritional label is that you have no idea what you’re getting—is it the anal secretions of a beaver or a highly processed methyl salicylate?

The flavoring mixologists carefully engineer these flavors to trick you into craving more of the food their companies are producing. So, now that you’ve sipped your caramel flavored Folgers coffee, you’re left craving another cup—or a donut.

This is precisely how this “zero carb” food will make you fat.

Caramel Coloring

What you may not know is that caramel coloring can be derived from wheat, and thus contain a small amount of gluten. I recommend avoiding any natural or artificial coloring, and especially avoid caramel coloring if you are particularly sensitive to or allergic to gluten. What’s the point of coloring a food, anyway? Unless you’re hiding something disgusting…

Citric Acid

Citric acid is pretty benign. You can find it in citrus fruit and use it in canning. In fact, mix a little with the water and that might be all I’d actually even consider sipping out of this chemical soup.


Would you like to see where sucralose was born? Welcome to King’s College, London, where a group of scientists were busy trying to enhance the pesticide effect of chlorine by “bleaching” sugar molecules.

Their theory was that the insects would be attracted by the sucralose’s artificial sweetness, which is 600 times sweeter than sugar, and then be… well, um… eradicated.

Acesulfame Potassium

This compound was discovered when a scientist accidentally licked his finger after touching the chemicals he was working with—it’s 200 times sweeter than sugar and is primarily used to make medicine palatable and is used in soft drinks, usually in conjunction with other sweeteners.

Many opponents of acesulfame potassium’s usage as a food additive point to the fact that there is not enough research done on its effects. However, a recent study found that usage of this compound could alter cognitive functions as well as affect neuro-metabolic functions, particularly in males.

Plus, acesulfame potassium contains the carcinogen methylene chloride. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause:

  • headaches
  • depression
  • nausea
  • mental confusion
  • liver damage
  • kidney damage
  • visual disturbances
  • and cancer

The scientists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest affirm that what little research that was done on acesulfame potassium points to a tumor link, making this sweetener unfit for consumption.

Sodium Benzoate

Benzene is the primary ingredient in Liquid Wrench, various paint stripping products, rubber cement, and some spot removers. Why? Because it has a highly destructive property and is a particularly good solvent. But that’s only the beginning of the story… When a large number factory workers in U.S. rubber manufacturing plants got leukemia, the use of benzene was discontinued as a component of the rubber—because it was the benzene that caused the leukemia.

Sodium benzoate is more toxic than either processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup, but it doesn’t get even close to the same media coverage. According to its safety data sheet, consumption of sodium benzoate can cause food allergies! (Has anyone else noticed that almost everyone has some kind of food allergy now?) Why is this being used in our “food” supply?!

Well, news or no news, I’m not going to ingest it on purpose. The problem is… I know and can avoid it, but (sadly) the majority of consumer are buying blindly.

It’s time for American consumers to start being proactive about their food supply!

While I chose this Folgers Flavors to pick apart because Alyson and I happened to turn a bottle of it around at the supermarket, I’m sure I could easily flip a hundred more bottles at the store and find just as shocking ingredients.

We need to start reading the labels and rejecting the “natural” and artificial flavorings and the synthetic chemicals that are causing us to be sick, overweight, lethargic, and constantly in a craving cycle that leaves us at the mercy of the very companies that are hurting us.

It’s time to choose real food and only real food!

If you’re unsure about how to make those positive changes in your life, how to take back your kitchen table—and your health—check out The Wild Diet now! You’ll gain a deeper understanding of just what happened to our food, and how you can fix it… plus– a lot of great stories, tips and tricks, and delicious recipes that only use real food.







Discover how to drop fat with chocolate, bacon, and cheesecake. Plus: learn the 3 worst foods you should NEVER eat and the 7 best exercises for rapid fat loss. Click below to to claim your FREE gift ($17 value)!

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  1. I can’t believe the stuff I see in the ingredients list!
    The most surprising list to me is bread.
    Isn’t only supposed to be water, yeast, a little sugar, and salt? But the list is huge!!!
    It’s really scary the things that are allowed in the products that almost all Americans are consuming.

  2. So crazy to think that the food industry is still getting away with things like this! Thanks for all the great details and info! I know so many people that drink and eat things like this on a daily basis. I’m afraid most people won’t change their habits until the food companies out there are forced to change theirs!. Your stories and support in this fight is awesome! Thank you!

  3. I don’t drink coffee at all (I know, I’m weird!) but ever since I was told I had Hasimoto’s Disease and had to go Paleo, I read EVERY label….it’s flabbergasting and frustrating at the same time to see how much junk is in food. Between that and stuff they pump into the air….it’s no wonder so many are sick or are getting diseases. 🙁

    Thanks for the great information….you guys ROCK!

  4. Abel,
    Great article!!! I am completely blown away that the FDA thinks (sic) that one of the main ingredients in Anti Freeze is OK to consume.. Huh??!!

    I haven’t looked yet, but PLEASE tell me the caramel sauce you mentioned IS in The Wild Diet, right??
    Keep up the GREAT work!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Abel,

    I was making my fatty coffee from Folgers Black Silk Coffee (I like the dark roast) but I decided to skip to today. Experimenting on how I fee without it since I just started the Wild Diet on Sunday. Now I feel like THIS ARTICLE was the reason why. I am tossing that can out and buying the real stuff… today!

    Keep it real and keep it Wild!

  6. Abel,

    I appreciate the work that you do! I’ve been subscribed to your podcast for along time now and find they are my first choice when a new one is available. I also pre-orderd your book and I love it! I appreciate how you explain things in detail and yet keep it simple enough to remember. It is good to connect to others when trying to live a healthier life style as family and friends can sometimes get annoyed with me. I joke when shopping that if I don’t bring a certain amount of junk food home, they won’t let me in the door 🙂 Your work helps me to make them their treats with out them knowing just how good they really are!

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Many of these are scientific names for compounds that are readily found in nature, or are derivatives of compounds found in nature. Articles like this generate hysteria. They take advantage of compound names most people can’t pronounce, even though the ingredient is perfectly safe. Many of these compounds simply don’t have a common names. If i told you never to consume 1,3,7-Trimethylpurine-2,6-dione, an average person would most certainly agree. This is the IUPAC name for caffeine. We can’t be sure propylene glycol is any more harmful for humans than caffeine, with the compounds being found naturally in yeast and plants respectively. Both have been heavily tested, and their is a consensus on their safety. I hate to see people so readily succumbing to what I think is misinformation. This is related to the GMO argument “Just Label It.” GMOs are safe, and have many benefits. Still, all one has todo is scare people with science, such as in an article like this one, and a potentially huge step forward in global food security will loose support. Im not suggesting everything in the food supply is safe, and in-fact it most certainly is not. The cancer rates of developed countries is most likely elevated because of chemical exposure. However, when it comes to science, safety, what we don’t know, and what we think is good for the planet, the discussion shouldn’t be driven by fear of large chemical names.

    • Hi Matt, you raise a great point. We shouldn’t fear all substances with sciency-sounding names. The point, though, is that there’s a heck of a lot of processing going into flavoring our food in the modern world, and we need to be conscious of that (especially since many of the flavorings in food are not well-researched in regards to human safety).

      Usually, it takes years to find out that compounds like artificial sweeteners, for instance, are carcinogenic. The burden of proof should be on food/chemical manufacturers to prove the long-term safety of their products, but that’s not the way it works. We’re doing our best to move the field forward to balance food security with human safety and health. Let me know if there’s anyone you can think of to have on the show to interview about this in more depth. Cheers!

  8. Not much citation here pertaining to your findings, so I will assume that this is all speculation. I will continue to dissolve my Nootropics in Propylene Glycol after I finish making E-Liquid with that and Vegetable Glycerin. Both of which are perfectly safe for consumption. (I said “Consumption,” and yes, that means you can eat it.)

  9. I am so glad you wrote about this. As much as I try to make the man of the house to understand why I buy organic bean and ground it and tell him he really is not drinking coffee he huffs at me, then what is it. I have always gotten organic ground or bean, I will not use this type of shelf coffee. If it came from me my boyfriend would roll his eyes. Thanks!

  10. Abel,

    Ive been drinking this rotten folgers for a long time, every morning. Now you have me wondering? Maybe thats why Ive been sick so long…. Im about 30 lbs overweight. but have alot of brain fog, lethargy, and tired alottttt and do eat mostly all whole foods. Been tested by doctors and they say, Idk, all your tests are normal? I think Hashimotos, but I dont know , just from what Ive been reading. Father was type 1 diebetic since earyl 20’s very think man all his life. Mother was diagnosed with Cronic Fatigue/FibroMyalgia ? for years now and she sleeps alot. I do not sleep alot, but am tired alot and loose my voice by the end of day. Legs get weak and feel like I have to saver all my energy for the next day just to try to get by. Its horrible.
    Nobody knows what I have, they try to tell me to take anti depressants, I refuse, knowing that is not how I feel., I am not a depressed person. And I know several people that are and take these drugs and they say they are still depressed so why bother putting that garbage in my system.
    Hoping your diet can help, Im stopping the Folgers today. My question also is what kind of coffee can I have that is in your diet?
    Thank you,

  11. While I agree that products like Folgers Flavors are hardly healthy, at least two of the points you make aren’t entirely accurate. Thing is, you don’t need to embellish to make your point regarding these “foods”. First, you can’t say it’s ” mostly ” propylene glycol. Being first on the list means there’s more of it than any other single ingredient, but not that it accounts for more than 50% of the product. Second, sodium benzoate and benzene are NOT the same thing. You need vitamin C/ascorbic acid present before sodium benzoate can become benzene. There’s no ascorbic acid in the ingredients list, so there’s no benzene. Like I said, you don’t need to embellish here to make your point. Let the chemical facts speak for themselves.

  12. I also researched propylene glycol and was surprised at all its uses, but am not finding research that links it to cancer. Can you share your findings?

  13. This is such a great information. .thanks a lot Abel. Those small detials can make such a huge difference in our health..
    Btw… after loosing 73.7 pounds I’m struggling to gain lean muscle. I bought your wild diet packed this month but I’m not sure how many calories I’ve got take it..
    I’m 159.5 pounds
    And I do Insanity workout
    And I do have a pretty active lifestyle.

    I need help. Sometimes I feel discouraged. . 🙁 what can I do Abel ?

  14. Ugh..That’s so disturbing :/

    Can I use Coconut Palm Sugar & organic half & half in my Coffee?

    I’m a previous French vanilla coffee mate addict, and I’m having a real hard time with the coffee substitutions in the book

  15. Please add shade-grown to your list of requirements for a great cup of coffee. Shade-grown coffee tastes better, is more sustainable, and provides much needed habitat for birds and other wildlife.

  16. Marianne Howard says:

    Wow! I cannot believe the government allows the FDA (whom I trusted), and ignorantly felt was looking out for our well-being to approve such poison in our food! I am now a type 1 diabetic, I have celiac disease and have just recently been informed that I also have lupus. Have I understood all of these facts perhaps I wouldn’t be in the bad health condition that I am in now. Get me wrong it was my choice to be ignorant and not to bother finding out with these ingredients where I understand that. The only difference I can use is that I did Trust that the government would never do something that would be that extremely harmful to my health. I guess Money Talks and plus think of all the money that will be gained through needed Pharmaceuticals…right?:( well this old gal ain’t dead yet and I am making some serious changes! Thank you for this article my eyes are wide open!!

  17. Colby Peterson says:

    I would like to add that there are three main forms of Propylene Glycol. There is USP and USP Kosher, which is for consumables. Uninhibited, (I may be wrong on the name.) Which is for use in pharmaceuticals, and Industrial or unrefined which is used in cool and and engines. Truly, propylene glycol isn’t harmful if you’re using either of the USP grade, the fluoride that the government runs through all water in the USA is way more deadly even at trace amounts. For those who think that bottled water is the answer, check again.

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