Perceiving the flavour of food requires us to use not only our sense of taste but also our sense of smell. We are able to taste food due to the combination of messages produced by the nerve cells in the nose and the taste buds in the mouth. Next time you catch a cold remember to check how, besides losing your sense of smell, food will have no taste.
Substances with flavouring properties have been used from early times to improve the acceptance of food. Controlling the market for these substances has caused many confrontations and even wars.
We are now going to write about flavour enhancers. They are used extensively nowadays and added to a high percentage of foods, except for those that are not processed. Flavourings have “bad press” since it is frequently supposed that they are harmful because they are not natural. Considering natural products good and artificial products bad, however, is not always wise. Many flavouring substances are natural, since they are obtained from plant or animal raw materials. And some of the substances obtained by artificial synthesis reproduce the formula of natural flavourings. This is why what is really important for consumers is not so much where the flavour enhancers come from, but that the food industry respects the legislation regulating their use.
Flavouring substances may be used for other purposes besides enhancing flavours. For example, to reduce the cost of a product. This happens in egg custard, in which a low proportion of eggs is compensated with the addition of flavouring, or in fish products such as crab-flavoured sticks. These products have the evident advantage of being much cheaper than foods containing the original ingredients. Nonetheless, it is an advantage only if the consumer is aware of what he is really buying and agrees to it. What you should do is to consult the list of ingredients and check if flavour enhancers are present, although frequently they are carefully hidden, as when they are named generically without specifying which ones are used.
In short, the best way to assess the ingredients in food is to know why they are used and what advantages they bring. This way you can choose the options that are more useful to you and match them to your personal choices and circumstances without being prejudiced.
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