Are Your Kids Eating Secretions From the Anal Glands of Beavers?

There’s been more candy eating and gum chewing in our house this week than after Halloween.

Partly because of the candy throwing at the July 4th parade in Ashland and partly because my mother-in-law was just here for a visit (note to Susan: this is not a criticism of you in any way. We had a wonderful time and want you to come back soon).

My kids aren’t just swallowing loads of refined sugar (linked to the huge increase of juvenile diabetes among children in the United States) and hydrogenated oils (so taxing to liver, heart, and other organs it’s considered by some to be a poison), they also maybe eating secretions from the anal glands of beavers.

This ingredient, used as a flavor enhancer in raspberry and other candies, is called castor or castoreum, and it’s been used as a food additive for decades. It’s made from the anal glands of beavers and considered non-toxic by the FDA for human consumption.

So many unanswered questions: Where are the beavers whose anuses are being harvested? And how do you extract the castoreum?

Maybe I don’t want to know.

Then there’s the gum. The bright blue shit the kids have in their mouths is actually made with plastic. Read Fake Plastic Fish’s excellent article on plastic in chewing gum for more information.

It’s summer. Magnolias are blossoming. Strawberries are ripening. We have fennel and oregano and parsley growing wild in the yard and bright yellow buds on the tomato plants in the garden. The long tentacles of lemon cucumbers are reaching out for a trellis to wrap themselves around.

But my kids are eating the anal glands of beavers and chewing on plastic.

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19 thoughts on “Are Your Kids Eating Secretions From the Anal Glands of Beavers?”

  1. What I want to know is this: who was the person who thought that the stuff in a beaver’s anal gland might actually taste good? Who on Earth even thought to harvest the stuff in the first place? Because I occasionally have to express my dog’s anal glands (don’t ask) and that stuff smells worse than anything I’ve ever smelled in my entire life. Maybe a beaver’s butt isn’t as fragrant, but I just can’t imagine smelling that stuff and thinking, “This might make candy taste better.”
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..The Hidden Camera Marriage =-.

  2. This is disgusting. People need to pay attention to ingredients themselves now and ASK what the ingredients are, no DEMAND to know what the ingredients are, since the FDA no longer seems capable of doing that and protecting our children. How complicated it is to be a parent these days! Thanks for keeping us in the loop. I don’t want my granddaughter chewing plastic.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..PB Boulangerie Bistro to Open for Dinner =-.

  3. Is it okay that I laughed at this? Not in a critical way, but in a ‘Lord don’t I know it’ kind of way. I often wonder, even if it’s a roasting chicken, Who thought it would be a good idea to pluck gut and roast this guy? I suppose anal gland excretions is about as natural as it gets. But you’re right. and this is why I police Sadie’s foods like a hawk.
    .-= Colleen´s last blog ..Why do we fall =-.

  4. I’ve seen castor as an ingredient but had no idea it was beaver butt. Now I’m more illuminated and EWWWWWW!
    .-= Melanie´s last blog ..Suckers- =-.

  5. My questions are…Is this Castor the same as “Castor oil”?

    I am also very cautious about what my family eats and we primarily consume whole foods, but just to pose the question, what is so different about gland secretions than say, cod liver oil? Or eating animal organs? If anybody has response, I would love to know.

    I did just get stung in the throat by a yellow jacket and had to take lots of benedryl, so maybe I am too loopy for the anal secretions to seem any more gross than some other animal by-products.

  6. From what I read, it is used in perfumes and foods because it smells and tastes pleasant to the human palate. It is usually labeled “castoreum” in the ingredients list.

    It is probably a relic of the fur-trade era in which the Hudson Bay Company and others hunted North American Beavers to near extinction. They wanted the pelts, but the other beaver parts were surely utilized as well.

  7. Castor oil comes from the seed of the castor oil plant, so it’s vegetarian.

    In castoreum, apparently, the beaver glands are removed and dried for a couple years to mellow the aroma. So you’re technically eating a secretion, rather than the organ, unless they just put the whole gland in a blender.

    Who would have thought raspberry candy wasn’t vegetarian? Maybe they should make raspberry lollipops shaped like big pink life savers, with the stick shaped like a beaver tail…

  8. What the hell??!! I’m with Alisa.. how in god’s name was this “discovered?” Who was the first one to sniff the ass of a beaver and say, “ya know what? that ain’t bad.. we should eat it.”
    .-= Claudine´s last blog ..Learning To Fly =-.

  9. Geez, this brings ick factor a whole new level. I swear I’ve seen that ingredient listed everywhere and never thought a thing about it. This just boggles the mind; it seems too weird to be possible. Wouldn’t this be incredibly expensive, given the rarity of beavers and the difficulty of obtaining, on top of everything else??? Ick Ick Ick!!!!
    .-= Melanie Haiken´s last blog ..5 Top Resource Blogs for Active Adventures =-.

  10. My response to Vera: my nine year old would stop eating it. But he’s conscientious about food and is actually a budding ethical vegetarian. Jennifer, thank you for posting this. Very eye opening! Is all chewing gum made from similar ingredients, do you think? I did a few seconds of googling and beavers deposit this stuff here and there (dogs have those glands too, I remember) – I wonder if it’s harvested after they deposit it, or what. Such a strange mystery.
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Free-range kids =-.

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