Beaver Anal Secretions Used as Vanilla Substitute

Photo: Tania Thomson /Shutterstock.

Anal secretions from beavers can be used as a vanilla-like flavoring in some foods, according to the Swedish National Food Agency, which recently confirmed what’s long been an Internet rumor.

Both male and female beavers secrete Castoreum, which the FDA classifies as GRAS, or "generally recognized as safe."

However, you probably won’t see Castoreum on food labels — it’s typically listed as "natural flavoring."

The food additive is most often used in baked goods as a vanilla substitute, but it’s also been known to be used in alcoholic beverages, puddings, ice cream, candy and chewing gum.

It’s less commonly used as part of a strawberry or raspberry flavoring.

Although Castoreum can be used in place of vanilla, it’s not nearly as common as vanillin, the primary component of the extract of the vanilla bean.

Annual consumption of Castoreum worldwide is around 300 pounds, while vanillian is more than 2.6 million pounds, according to "Fenaroli's Handbook of Flavor Ingredients."

Castoreum is more commonly found in perfumes than in food.

Tales of beaver anal secretions in food have been on the Internet for quite some time, but the story didn’t gain national attention until 2011 when Jamie Oliver talked about it on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”