Breath-freshner concept used to develop taste tester


New York : Using the same concept behind commercial breath-fresheners, researchers have developed a new and easier method for clinical taste testing.

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The edible “taste strips” are similar to breath-freshening strips and contain one of the five basic tastes that are detected by humans – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and monosodium glutamate, or what is known as umami taste.

The idea came to Greg Smutzer when a lab equipment repairman offered him one of the new breath-freshening strips, ScienceDaily reported.

“I had never seen the strips before. But as soon as he showed them to me, one of my first thoughts was, this technology would be ideal for a taste test because it is so simple to use,” Smutzer recalled.

He started by using a combination of two polymers, pullulan and methocel, and adding the required taste in each strip – sodium chloride for salty, sucrose for sweet, ascorbic acid for sour, quinine for bitter, and monosodium glutamate for umami.

Pullulan, a major ingredient of the Listerine breath strips, is tasteless and dissolves within seconds in the mouth. Methocel is added in small amounts to increase the tensile strength of the pullulan films.

The development of the taste strips solves a problem for researchers as no standardised method for rapidly measuring taste function in humans is currently available, and taste norms for the human population as a function of age and sex have yet to be determined.

“What is typically done in the lab is a ‘sip and spit’ test,” Smutzer explained.

But this test is difficult to administer outside the lab because the solutions have a very short shelf life and are not very portable, he said.

Another big problem with the liquid test is that it cannot be effectively used to examine selected regions of the tongue, such as just one side, the front or the back of the tongue.

“It is very difficult to do regional testing with the liquid test because it is tough to concentrate liquid in just one area of the mouth,” said Smutzer, who is hoping to commercialise the taste strips.

“We can alter the size or thickness of these strips, place them on a desired area of the tongue and allow saliva to dissolve them without causing the tastant to spread over the surface of the tongue.”