Inflight food and a dash of science

Food is not something we have mentioned yet on our blog, although, good food is something we like to discuss a lot in the EUclaim office.  Because we spend a great deal of time talking about flight delays and flight data, bad airline food also gets a mention.

When you are up in the air and it’s time for a meal there is usually little or no choice on the inflight menu and it is often grim. But science may have come to the rescue. Apparently, a recent study at Cornell University in the USA has revealed that with a dash of science air passengers can enjoy and inflight meal. And it’s all down to taste.

Airline noise alters passenger taste buds

Researchers from Cornell’s food science department discovered that the noise of an airplane, which is around 85 decibels can have a huge effect on taste buds decreasing the taste of sweet flavours but increasing savoury. The study undertook research in a simulated air cabin. Forty eight participants tasted and rated food that represented varying concentrations of the five basic tastes. According to the study diners gave sweeter tasting foods a lower rating but high marks to food which had a meaty or savoury flavour.  

“The multi-sensory nature of what we consider ‘flavour’ is undoubtedly underpinned by complex central and peripheral interactions,” said Robin Dando, an assistant professor of food science at Cornell who co-authored the study “Our results characterise a novel sensory interaction with intriguing implications for the effect of the environment in which we consume food.”

Lufthansa passengers drink 1.8 million litres of tomato juice in a year

After realising that their passengers were consuming some 1.8 million litres of tomato juice in a year Lufthansa commissioned a private study in 2010 to find out why. Munich based research group The Fraunhofer Institute set up a simulated airplane cabin in mid-flight and asked passengers to rate the taste of tomato juice. They gave the tomato juice a much higher rating in the simulated flying conditions than on the ground.

We join Cornell University in the hope that these revelations and studies will inspire airlines to put a better meal on the table. 

The study from the team at Cornell University is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.

The full article can be read here.

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