Where does vanilla flavoring come from? TikTok users horrified

Georgina Smith
Vanilla cupcakes next to TikTok logo

TikTok users are once again documenting their horror upon finding out one of the origins of vanilla flavoring and what beavers have to do with it — here’s what everybody’s talking about.

Back in 2020, TikToker sloowmoee went viral when he posted a video telling people to record themselves before and after googling “where does vanilla flavoring come from?” The seemingly mundane question had a rather unusual answer, and commenters were quick to share their disgust.

The trend has gone viral on multiple occasions over the past couple of years, and it looks like it could continue to pop up over time as more people find out about this bizarre piece of trivia.

Where does vanilla flavoring come from?

Vanilla flavoring has multiple different sources, but people on TikTok were shocked to find out that some flavoring is sourced from the anal excretions of beavers.

Beavers reportedly secrete a goo called castoreum, which has been listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a “generally regarded as safe” additive, and has been used in perfumes and foods for at least 80 years according to a study from 2007.

Wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University, Joanne Crawford, told the National Geographic: “I lift up the animal’s tail, and 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.’”

She went on to add: “You can milk the anal glands so you can extract the fluid. You can squirt [castoreum] out. It’s pretty gross.”

However, you will probably be relieved to hear that the consumption of castoreum is pretty small, at only about 292 pounds every year.

Every so often on TikTok, a user will bring up this bizarre fact, shocking a whole new wave of people with the information every time.