What makes something taste “good” is a complex psychological and physiological human process that has made creating artificial tasters, or accurate scientific models, very difficult. But researchers at the University of Copenhagen have come up with what’s described as a “magnetic tongue” that could allow factories to monitor and improve the flavour of tinned tomatoes during the canning process.
Using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, researchers were able to determine the levels and types of sugars and amino acids in 18 different samples of tomatoes. These same samples were also tested by professional human tasters, who rated the tomatoes based on various sensory criteria like flavour, appearance and texture. By then correlating the results from the spectroscopy with the quantitative and qualitative descriptions from the human testers, the researchers were able to calibrate their artificial tasting technique to discern characteristics like bitterness, sweetness, sourness, saltiness and even texture and density.
The hope is that such a system could be implemented as part of the canning process in the factory, allowing the product to be continually tweaked and enhanced for maximum flavour.
Photo: AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian