Artificial throat that speeds taste tests

In another step toward making the human obsolete, researchers from Netherlands have developed an artificial throat. The latest weapon in food chemistry swallows, breathes, salivates and knocks back fizzy drinks like there is no tomorrow. The artificial throat is useful for complicated beverages, such as sports or low-carbohydrate drinks, because the proteins and sugars in them can interfere with other flavors.

Developing the flavor of a new drink is a lengthy task that involves many tests by panels of human testers. The artificial throat, which works by mimicking the process of human tasting, was developed to minimize drinks makers the expense and hassle involved in organising and analyzing hundreds of taste tests.

The artificial throat process uses glass tubes and a segment of rubber tubing controlled with a clamp. A test liquid is put into the top tube; the clamp is then opened allowing the liquid to coat the tube. Air – acting as a substitute for the human breath – is then passed up the tube. The resulting ‘breath’ is sent into an artificial nose, where it is quickly analyzed by a mass spectrometer to determine the nature and level of volatile compounds that lead to flavor release and perception of taste.