The North American Vanilla Bean Importers Association (NAVBIA) has launched a new website. The association was formed by several vanilla trading companies who are very concerned about the continued low prices of vanilla and how this is affecting vanilla growers worldwide. The low prices, caused in part by companies who are not adhering to the FDA regulations for the use of pure vanilla in frozen desserts and other foods, the NAVBIA has taken a proactive stance about this issue with the hope that manufacturers who have been violating the law, will move into compliance.
In the 1960s and 1970s, laws were established by the FDA with regard to the use of pure vanilla extract or flavor in frozen desserts. If the product was to be labeled “Vanilla Ice Cream,” it had to contain 100% pure vanilla extract. If it did not, the label was to read “Imitation Vanilla Ice Cream.”
During the vanilla crisis in the early part of this decade, manufacturers stopped using pure vanilla in a number of their products. When prices dropped dramatically, they chose not to resume using pure vanilla.
In the ingredients list, instead of pure vanilla extract in many products it now says, “natural flavors” or “other natural flavors.” This usually means that imitation vanilla has been used, most often made from rice bran extract.
The frustration with the dishonest practices within the industry is not only about a loss of revenue in vanilla bean sales for the trading companies, but also about the incredibly low prices farmers are making. Farmers everywhere are tearing up their vanilla crops because they cannot support themselves and their families on the $1.00 a kilo for green beans and less than $10 a kilo for cured, dried beans. Given that vanilla is the world’s most labor-intensive agricultural crop, it has become nearly impossible for farmers to continue to use their very limited land growing a crop that won’t support them.
What does this mean for consumers? It means that within a generation we could potentially lose pure vanilla forever!
Speak up with your actions! Don’t purchase vanilla ice cream, yogurt or other products that use imitation vanilla. Write to companies you suspect are illegally using imitation vanilla and tell them you want only pure vanilla in your vanilla ice cream.
Very few farmers want to leave their land and move to an industrialized country in order to support their families. We can make a difference in the lives of farmers by purchasing only pure vanilla, whether it is vanilla extract or products with vanilla in the ingredients. Thank you for your support!