Information that beaver bottoms can be a source of vanilla aroma, in the form of Castoreum, have been circulating on the internet recently and the agency has now confirmed that there is substance to the secretions.
"Natural aromas can be extracts from plants, fungi, and in some cases animals. The labeling provisions do not require that the kind of flavor is indicated, with the exception of coffee and quinine," Ulla Beckman Sundh at the agency said.
Vanilla flavor, it has been established, is not only derived from the vanilla bean. It can also come from conifer trees, or indeed from the anal passage of a beaver.
Before you go knocking Sweden, note that it is also used in the USA:
Castoreum is the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) and the European Beaver (Castor fiber).
In the United States, castoreum is considered to be a GRAS [generally recognized as safe] food additive by the Food and Drug Administration. It is often referenced simply as a "natural flavoring" in products' lists of ingredients. While it is mainly used in both foods and beverages as part of a substitute vanilla flavour, it is less commonly used as a part of a raspberry or strawberry flavoring. The annual industry consumption is very low, around 300 pounds, whereas vanillin is over 2.6 million pounds annually.
Castoreum has been traditionally used in Scandinavia for flavoring snaps commonly referred to as "Bäverhojt".
Castoreum is also used to contribute to the flavor and odor of cigarettes.