Geek Trivia

Which Drink Is, Thanks To Federal Law, Now Artificially Flavored?

Root Beer
What Is The Most Widely Released Graphic Adventure Video Game Of All Time?
Sign outside a diner advertising root beer
Steve Snodgrass/Flickr

Answer: Root Beer

Root Beer is known as such because it was originally made with a wide variety of roots including licorice root, sarsaparilla root, and sassafras root, among other plant ingredients.

The last listed ingredient has been phased out from all but the smallest of root beer batches, however, since the FDA, in a 1960 ruling, banned the use of safrole oil from sassafras roots in commercial food products on the grounds that it was a carcinogenic substance.

As a result, modern root beers have artificial sassafras root flavoring in order to stay on the right side of the FDA and avoid poisoning their customers. Higher-end root beers, typically brewed in small batches, use a special (and much more expensive) sassafras root blend where the safrole oil has been removed.