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Taste test.

It took a team of taste testers to perfect the flavor mix in your favorite drink. These pros sometimes have to choke down unappetizing liquids in the quest for the ideal blend. Now, an artificial throat may help these testers avoid a bad aftertaste.

The new device mimics the way humans taste drinks, says Alexandra Boelrijk, a researcher who developed the artificial throat at NIZO Food Research in the Netherlands. Researchers pour a test liquid into the tool's 'mouth." Then, the device 'swallows" the drink. Finally, a jet of air puffs up through the device, and a machine measures the chemicals in that air. Scientists analyze the results to determine how the liquid would taste.

Why "taste" the air? Your tongue can pick out only five flavors--sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (meaty flavor). Your nose, however, can sense more than 10,000 odors. To drink, people naturally hold their breath--exhaling after they swallow. The breath picks up the scent of the swallowed liquid and carries the aroma up to the nose. Then, the nose helps pinpoint flavors, distinguishing Coke from Pepsi, for example.

Testing the artificial throat's "exhaled" air helps researchers fine-tune drink recipes, says Boelrijk. That way, they can nix unsavory flavors before bringing in human tasters.

Did You Know?

* The umami taste is thought to be triggered by amino acids--compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen--in foods. The taste is also believed to be present in MSG, a flavor enhancer found in some foods. But not all scientists agree that the umami taste exists.

* Most people have about 10,000 taste buds on their tongues. Resources

* You can find a teaching guide on taste buds at this Web site: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/taste.html

* Find out more about taste buds at this Web site: http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/qa/taste_buds.html
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Article Details
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Author:Price, Sean
Publication:Science World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 7, 2005
Words:309
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