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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Artificial mouth tests ice cream
Ice cream
Ice cream is a "complex matrix"
How do you get a low-fat ice cream that tastes like a full-fat ice cream?

This is the challenge facing a PhD student at the University of Missouri Columbia, US, who is using a mechanical "mouth" to help her find the perfect flavour.

Ice cream sales are now in their summer boom months - but attempts to promote a low-fat variety to health-conscious consumers are struggling.


When you masticate food, essentially, flavour volatiles come out from the food matrix to the head space and it moves over to your nasal cavity

Seo-Jing Chung explains the flavour of ice cream
While sales of full-fat ice cream are rising in the United States, the low-fat variety has seen a decline in sales.

For those who see ice cream as a science rather than a pleasure, this is because the flavour is carried in the fat.

And the university is receiving over $100,000 from the US Government to carry out research into finding a strawberry-flavoured low-fat ice cream that will taste more like the high-calorie variety.

As part of the university's specialist work in this field, there is also an Arbuckle Professor for Ice Cream Research.

Scooping information

PhD student, Seo-Jing Chung, is using an artificial mouth to test ice-cream flavours.

This mouth, made of glass, is fed ice cream - and then an enzyme is added which acts in the same way as human saliva, while a piece of moving metal imitates the actions of the tongue.

The microscopic material which carries flavour is forced out by an infusion of nitrogen gas - and then caught by an absorbent strip.

These trapped flavours are then analysed and displayed in the form of a computer read-out, with the peaks representing precise aspects of flavour.

Describing what happens when we eat ice cream, Seo-Jing Chung says: "When you masticate food, essentially, flavour volatiles come out from the food matrix to the head space and it moves over to your nasal cavity."

The serious business of ice cream also requires human testing.

As well as reacting to the flavour of ice creams, the human testers are also sometimes required to wear apparatus that fires the microscopic units of flavour up their noses.

As part of the research programme into ice cream, the university produces its own ice cream and sells it through its own ice cream parlour.

This is described as a "classroom, laboratory and commercial ice cream plant".

See also:

07 Jul 99 | Business
08 Nov 99 | UK
22 Jun 01 | Health
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