Artificial nose unlocks the taste and smell link

By John Wood

- Last updated on GMT

The proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometer in use by a scientist within the flavour laboratory at RSSL
The proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometer in use by a scientist within the flavour laboratory at RSSL

Related tags: Taste

New technology that can identify the chemicals we sense by smell, at the moment we sense them, has been installed at research organisation Reading Scientific Services (RSSL).

According to RSSL researchers, the proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometer will have a massive impact on developing food and drink products that taste better, or in reformulating products to have the same sensory characteristics as established brands.

‘Artificial nose’

It acts like an ‘artificial nose’, detecting and identifying the chemicals in the nasal cavity as food is eaten and smelled, and can link the release of individual chemicals to sensory perceptions.

“There are many potential applications in the food and drink industry,”​ said Alex Webbe, who heads the team at RSSL that is using the device.

Impact

“We can assess flavour release in products that have been reformulated, perhaps to decrease sugar, fat or salt, and get to understand what impact the formulation changes have on flavours, and even how those flavours persist or are lost during the course of each mouthful,”​ said Webbe.

“Similar studies might also determine how different packaging affects food. We all know that just because something smells great as you open the packet, doesn’t mean it tastes great, and vice versa. This device will help explain why.”

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