TikTokers Think That Vanilla Extract Comes From A Beaver's Backside
I mean, it's very unlikely, but strangely enough there is a kernel of truth to this latest online hysteria.
You see, it's all down to something called castoreum. That comes from a castor sac that sits between the animal's pelvis and the base of the tail.
It's a slimy brown type of substance, and - just when you thought things couldn't get more disgusting - it often mixes with the beaver's urine when they mark their territory.
You can rest easy though, because whilst it was much more widely-used in the past - and could account for why so many beavers were killed in the olden days - it's more likely nowadays that your vanilla ice cream contains either real vanilla, or another synthetic additive.
Mmm, delicious synthetic additives...
While this is new to the denizens of TikTok, it's actually not new to anyone who knows about vanilla extract, or beavers for that matter. Castoreum used to be quite the delicacy, back in the day.
Back in 2013, Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist from Southern Illinois University, told National Geographic: "I lift up the animal's tail. I'm like, 'Get down there, and stick your nose near its bum.' People think I'm nuts. I tell them, 'Oh, but it's beavers; it smells really good.'"
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She went on to describe how you can extract the substance after anaesthetising the animals.
As you can probably imagine, it's not very easy - or particularly rewarding - to get this substance from beavers in the first place.
However, the musky vanilla taste has encouraged someone to go out there and 'milk' the glands of a beaver, so you know it's good.
Crawford added: "You can milk the anal glands so you can extra the fluid.
"You can squirt [castoreum] out. It's pretty gross."
Yes, it most certainly is.
Like we've mentioned, not many places actually use this additive anymore, so you can continue on eating vanilla-flavoured foods in the relative confidence that it hasn't been excreted by a dam-building animal.
However, castoreum is still listed by the US Food and Drug Administration as being 'generally safe to use'.
If that doesn't make you check the ingredients on your next pot of ice cream, nothing will.
Featured Image Credit: PA
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