Science 3 min read

Researchers Use Electric Tongue To Accurately Evaluate Food Spiciness

Spicy food is a booming industry in America. But, it can be hard for taste testers to really sample their own goods over long periods of time. Now, a new form of electronic tongue can help with that.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Scientists recently discovered that an electric tongue could handle more spicy foods than our natural one.

The spicy food business is prominent in the United States. In the last five years, the hot sauce production industry grew by 4.1 percent to reach $2 billion in 2018.

Not only has the business grown by 8.6 percent within the same period, but the number of employees has also increased by 7 percent.

It’s not just hot sauce. The story is the same for various spicy foods – whether it’s cayenne powders or Thai chili peppers.

While a few avoid the burning sensation, most people not only crave the heat but also enjoy it. There’s just one problem; spicy food can wear out taste buds quickly.

After a couple of samples, it becomes impossible to distinguish the differences in taste. This could be quite frustrating for people who make and sell them.

Speaking on the issue, recent Washington State University graduate student, Courtney Schlossareck said:

“At low concentrations or low spiciness, it’s hard to discriminate between two samples. It’s also hard to tell the difference between two samples at high concentrations.”

That’s where the e-tongue comes in.

An Electric Tongue For Your Chilli Pepper

Schlossareck and her WSU advisor, Carolyn Ross recently published a paper detailing how accurate the electric tongue is at distinguishing spiciness in the same food samples.

According to the publication in the Journal of Food Science, alongside maintaining an incredible accuracy, the electric tongue also handled as much heat as the scientists could throw at it.

This could be an industry game-changer, and here is why.

During the production of spicy foods, human tasters are often required to waste at least five minutes waiting between each sample. That way, the previous spicy taste would not throw off the new one.

Also, the human tongue can only handle a limited amount of heat within a short period.

In the end,  manufacturers or sellers often spend days to weeks, narrowing down a large selection of spicy foods. But, that could change really soon.

With the electric tongue, not only would testers be getting an accurate result, but they’ll also save a lot of time too.

Schlossareck said: 

“The electric tongue would allow testers to narrow a selection down to two or three samples for a human tasting panel if they start from 20 different formulations.”

Aside from helping the industry differentiate the spiciness in foods, the researchers also believe that it could assist the WSU Creamery with its Crimson Fire Cheese.

“Spicy cheese is popular,” Schlossareck said. “So helping cheese-makers dial in the optimum level of spiciness would be even more helpful.”

Read More: New Study: You Can Smell Food With Your Tongue

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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