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On Location: Vanilla 2007, Day Two

Posted: December 21, 2007

Brownell talks about vanilla and fair trade in our March vanilla-focus issue.

Vanilla 2007, organized by Daphna Havkin-Frenkel (Bakto Flavors), took place November 7th and 8th at the Forsgate Country Club in Jamesburg, NJ. More than 80 international attendees gathered to share the latest information on commercial and scientific developments in vanilla.

What is Natural Vanillin?

Day two of the Congress provided more surprises and controversial presentations. Betsy Carlton of Rhodia gave a presentation on the company’s Rhovanil vanillin. Carlton explained that Rhovanil vanillin is produced from rice husks using a fermentation process. The FDA has previously stated on many occasions that vanillin can only be considered natural if it is derived from vanilla beans. After several meetings, in which Rhodia demonstrated that the process itself is natural, the FDA consented to let Rhodia market Rhovanil as “vanillin derived naturally through fermentation.”

Carleton explained that Rhodia’s interpretation of the FDA’s statement means that Rhovanil can be used as natural flavor in any food or beverage. This would seem to contradict previous FDA statements including a letter in 2005 from Catalina Frerre-Hockensmith, consumer safety officer at the Division of Food Labeling and Standards, which said, “Although we would not object to a statement on the label indicating that vanillin is derived naturally through a fermentation process, we point out that such a statement should not imply that the vanillin is a natural flavor or that a finished food containing it is natural.”