Goya Foods Inc. is one of the largest private companies in the United States. Headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey, Goya is also one of the leading American brands for Spanish-speaking cuisines: spices, seasoning, canned goods, olive oil, and more. Goya products are sold mainly in the United States and Puerto Rico, but they’ve also more than penetrated into the global food market.
One of Goya’s flavored bouillons is the Ham Flavored Concentrate, which is a hybrid powder concentrate with artificial and natural flavorings. Goya advertises their bouillons as gluten-free, transfat-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, and calorie-free, but in truth, those are just matters of exaggeration or hyped advertisement. As we look deeper into their so-called “artificial and natural flavoring,” we get a clearer picture of what’s actually taking place.
Goya Ham Flavored Concentrate is not vegan because it has allergen info that says milk. Furthermore, the item description suggests that it contains natural flavors that may be derived from milk and pork fat.
This is why vegans have to be extra careful when scanning product ingredients, especially when it has terms like “natural flavoring,” “artificial flavoring,” “gum base,” “confectioner’s glaze,” “natural coloring,” “fortified with vitamin D.” Because if you pass over those said ingredients, you may consequently sin against the laws of veganism by adding those products into your cart, and applying them into your meals, or eating them straight.
Such ingredients are hardly ever vegan, let alone 100% plant-based, so if you’re going to scan the ingredients list of an item, make sure that you’re familiar with the terms you have to avoid as much as possible. Fortunately, we’re here to help you with that as we expose what natural flavors are actually in Goya’s Flavored Ham Concentrate.
In plain sight, here are the ingredients in Goya’s Ham Concentrate:
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Artificial Ham Flavor
- Hydrolized Vegetable Protein
- Silica (anti-caking agent)
However, the package also says ”contains soy, milk.”
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Hydrolized vegetable protein may be derived from soy, corn, or wheat and is used as a flavor enhancer, such as in vegetable bouillon. It may also be found in fake meats such as tempeh, tofu, seitan, etc. It’s a highly versatile food additive in almost any canned or packed foodstuff.
So most probably, this is the source of the soy allergen; however, strong evidence suggests that hydrolyzed vegetable protein may not cause adverse allergic reactions since, technically, it’s been stripped down to single amino acids, which aren’t likely to trigger allergies. For more science-based information, see here (PDF).
Is it healthy? We’ll get to that later.
Next, milk, now you might wonder, there doesn’t seem to be any milk or dairy component in the ingredients list, so why is milk identified as an allergen in Goya’s Ham Concentrate? Well, the complete name of this product is Goya’s Ham Flavored Concentrate & Other Natural Flavors, with emphatic big letters on the Ham Flavored Concentrate and nearly inconceivable letters under that, Other Natural Flavors.
These “other natural flavors” may contain a derivative or derivatives of dairy, or perhaps it’s simply because the product is manufactured in shared equipment that also processes milk or dairy. Either way, there’s milk in Goya’s Ham Flavored Concentrate, and that alone is evidence enough of why vegans should avoid it.
Artificial And Natural Flavors
So Goya’s ham-flavored seasoning contains both artificial and natural flavors, a hybrid concentrate. According to FDA, the main difference between artificial and natural flavors is that natural flavors are those derived from plant or animal material, but artificial flavors are made in a lab from various chemicals, some of which are natural and some synthetic. It doesn’t mean that these flavors can’t be put together anyway.
Furthermore, the product description on Amazon completely exposes these flavor ingredients. The natural ham-type flavor contains:
- Corn Syrup Solids
- Hydrolyzed Corn and Soy Protein
- Pork Fat
- Natural Ham Flavor
- Onion Powder
- Natural Smoke Flavor
- Disodium Inosinate
- Disodium Guanylate
It’s good to note that packaging descriptions may vary depending on your location. If you’re from the United States, the product may not label the soy or milk allergen, but if you’re from Europe, that allergen info would be there. Other packages may label pork fat in the natural flavor list, while others may not.
However, what doesn’t change is the composition of the powdered bouillon itself, so wherever you may be from, Goya’s Ham Flavored Concentrate contains both artificial and natural flavors, and one of those natural flavors is pork fat, a non-vegan and non-vegetarian ingredient.
Disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate (E627) may seem daunting ingredients, but they’re two types of salts, naturally-derived and used as flavor additives. While both ingredients can be derived from fermented tapioca starch, disodium inosinate is originally derived from beef, pork, poultry, and fish. You may avoid DSI if you want, but other products that contain this ingredient may indicate that it’s plant-based or tapioca starch.
Silica (Silicon Dioxide)
According to Healthline, silica is a natural compound made of two of the earth’s most abundant materials: silicon and oxygen. It’s an anti-caking agent that discourages clumping or clustering in powdered products.
While it’s labeled GRAS by the FDA, there’s not enough research suggesting that it’s healthy or dangerous to one’s health. Silica can also be found naturally in plants and in drinking water, but the kidney filters out this substance so that it doesn’t stay in our bodies for too long. It’s not an essential mineral, it’s simply a non-digestible food ingredient that passes in and out of the body.
However, inhaled silica is dangerous and can be fatal. Silicosis is a deadly lung disease resulting from continuous silica dust exposure. Miners, construction workers, quarries, steelworkers, and sandblast workers are most susceptible.
Here’s the dealbreaker for vegans though silica is continuously being tested on animals to further research-based evidence of what it may be capable of in the human body, while there aren’t any symptoms of increased cancer risk, organ failure or death, all the research has been done at the cost of animal life.
Is It Healthy?
1 packet of Goya’s Ham Flavored Concentrate contains no calories, fats, carbs, and protein, but it does contain 240 mg of sodium which is 10% of the recommended daily intake. Furthermore, it contains MSG (monosodium glutamate) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein which contains 30% MSG.
So it’s a double whammy of MSG. Is it that bad? Yes and no. Yes, if you’re sensitive to MSG or your diet consists of too much of it. Most reports against MSG are anecdotal and need further research, but some severe reactions may be headaches, nausea, and chest pain. No, because MSG is generally considered healthy when taken moderately, which is why FDA labeled it as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
Since Goya’s Ham Flavored Concentrate is only used in a 1-gram serving per batch of soup, it’s highly unlikely to cause any adverse reactions. It’s not healthy, but it’s neither detrimental; it’s most simply a food additive that adds umami flavor to a dish.
Vegan Substitutes For Ham Flavor
So now that we’ve thoroughly proven that Goya’s Ham Flavored Concentrate isn’t vegan, you wouldn’t have to think about using that again. Instead, there is a vegan, ham-flavored seasoning by Orrington Farms that you can find at FakeMeats, and costs $4.99 for a 6 oz jar. It’s also a powdered seasoning infused with sea salt but contains no MSG.
The ingredients in Orrington Farms’ vegan ham seasoning are:
- Salt (including sea salt)
- Yeast Extract
- Onion Powder
- Inactive Yeast
- Garlic Powder
- Natural Flavor (contains smoke)
- Soybean Oil
- Caramel Color
- Smoke Flavor
However, unlike Goya’s Ham Concentrate, Orrington Farms’ Ham Flavored Broth Base contains 15 cal, 800 mg sodium, and 3 g carb in a 2 tsp serving. Goya’s Ham Concentrate still contains more sodium per gram than Orrington Farms’ vegan version.
Smokey, savory, rich, and with a tinge of sweetness, vegan ham flavor is the way to go and apply to your broths and soups, or perhaps even dilute the powder in water and smear it over delicious, seitan ham.
Also, note that we’re not affiliated with any of the product links we provide, so we don’t get any commissions based on your purchases. It’s all honesty and vegan biases here.
Although Goya’s Ham Flavored Concentrate seasoning isn’t vegan, that doesn’t mean that Goya has no vegan-friendly offers. Goya’s Salad & Vegetable Seasoning bouillon is vegan-friendly since it doesn’t contain animal-based or actively animal-tested ingredients. It does contain MSG and 240 mg sodium per gram, but that’s okay.
There are many other vegan-friendly seasonings that Goya Foods produces, which we may catch up on in another article, but as for now, you’ve seen clearly how Goya’s Ham Concentrate isn’t vegan and that Orrington Farms offers a more affordable, reliable, and 100% vegan Ham Flavored Seasoning.