Airline foods scientifically tested for unpleasant tasting factors
Researchers in the US have found scientific reasons behind the common complaint that airline food tastes bad.
In a study conducted by Cornell University, researchers found that a plane’s noise was the biggest factor impacting the taste of food.
“Our study confirmed that in an environment of loud noise, our sense of taste is compromised,” said Robin Dando, Assistant Professor of Food Science at Cornell University.
In the study, 48 participants were given a mix of sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (a sweet/savoury mix) liquids. They were asked to taste them in silence and then again when listening to sounds recreating plane noises.
It was from participants feedback that the researchers were able to find a direct link between taste and noise.
Despite the belief that all plane food tastes bad, the scientists were able to show that noise did not always make food taste worse .The study discovered food and drinks described as unami, or the combination of both sweet and savoury, taste better on planes.
An example of a unami food is tomato juice which airlines report as being popular on flights. German carrier Lufthansa performed research themselves after noticing passengers were drinking just as much tomato juice as they were beer. The airline said cabin pressure also brought out the taste in tomato juice.
Cornell University’s research revealed that sweet foods were the worst to consume on planes with the body’s ability to taste sweetness becoming dull in the air.
Salty, sour and bitter remained relatively the same to taste buds as it did on the ground.
“The multisensory nature of what we consider ‘flavor’ is undoubtedly underpinned by complex central and peripheral interactions,” said Assistant Professor Dando from Cornell University.
“Our results characterise a novel sensory interaction, with intriguing implications for the effect of the environment in which we consume food.”
It is predicted that the research could influence airlines to alter what food and beverages they serve on flights.