Researchers have successfully tested the abilities of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) to function as a so called “magnetic tongue”. Antonio Randazzo, Anders Malmendal, Ettoro Novellino and their team reported their findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Sensing the smell and flavor of food is a very complex physiological and cognitive process. A food’s components and the taster’s experience at the moment of tasting influence the process. To be able to objectively measure the sensory descriptor, one needs human sensory tests not involving persons as taste testers. Examples of human sensory tests currently used are the electronic nose and the electronic tongue. Current instruments can only analyze certain food components and require a certain sample preparation.
The research team wanted to find a method capable of a detailed sensory description. Therefore they chose to investigate the utility of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy as a tool to analyze taste without any other chemical analysis. NMR can differentiate based on the chemical composition of a sample. Eighteen canned tomato products were analyzed by both NMR and human taste testers. The results showed that NMR metabolic fingerprints correlated well with the sensory descriptors of the tomatoes. Future research will show whether NMR can also be used for other kinds of foods and then it might just be a matter of time when food processing companies will start to use them.