Castoreum is a secretion from the castor sacs of beavers, which is typically used to mark their territory. Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, it is a combination of castor gland and anal gland secretions as well as urine. These days this secretion is commonly used in processed foods and some perfumes. The FDA regards castoreum as a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) ingredient and allows food companies to list it as “natural flavor” under ingredients. The most common type of flavoring castoreum is used for is vanilla and raspberry.
Some examples of what it may be used in is: vanilla ice cream, puddings with gelatin, carbonated drinks, hard and soft candies. The best way to avoid eating it is to avoid foods with “natural flavor” listed under ingredients, especially if the food is supposed to be vanilla or raspberry flavor. But in any case, it is best to avoid “natural flavors” as much as possible.
It is also commonly used in perfumes, especially those with a “leathery” smell or the “new car smell.”