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How your tastebuds became reverse engineered

By Sari Huhtala

Marketing buzzwords “less sugar,” “low sodium” and “no msg” in, well, just about all processed foods, are your red flag that your tastebuds are being reverse engineered under the guise of “artificial flavours.”

Reverse engineering of human taste buds through artificial flavour products is not new. About 20 years ago American biotechnology company Senomyx, which was acquired by Firmenich in 2018, developed chemicals that would assist the food industry in creating products that have up to 50 per cent less sugar and sodium than original products. These chemicals switch off bitter flavour receptors on the tongue, to mask bitterness in foods.

In 2008 the company collaborated with Cadbury, Campbell Soup Company, Nestle SA and other major food producers to develop products with the new chemical.

After a three-month safety study on rats, the tastebud engineering chemical was deemed safe for human consumption and brought to market. Senomyx received a “generally recognized as safe” classification from the Flavour and Extract Manufacturers Association.

Because only small amounts of the chemical are used in processing, and are labelled as artificial flavours, the company has no obligation to report chemical ingredients to consumers.

Sari Huhtala is the publisher and editor of Alive and Fit Magazine. She has over 25 years experience in journalism. She is a mother of 3 adult children. She has spent over 20 years navigating a healthy path for her family, one health hack at a time, as a single mom feeding her kids healthy on a shoestring budget. She also has over 15 years experience as a certified fitness specialist and personal trainer, 10 years experience as a reiki practitioner; she studied Shamanism and is currently completing her yoga teacher training certification.

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