If you’re tired of chewing—and drinkable yogurt, liquid donuts, and Thanksgiving dinner-flavored sodas aren’t your thing—researchers at ENITIAA are coming to the rescue. In the May 14 issue of the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they report the design of an artificial mouth that mimics the first steps of human digestion, in which we viciously tear apart and grind down our food under a continuous flow of saliva.
The actual purpose of this artificial mouth is to understand how these first steps affect the our perception of food flavor so that taste-testing of food products can be improved. (The other approach, according to the paper (pdf), is to sniff a person’s breath while they’re chewing). The chewing simulator—which was maintained at 98.6 °F, sported artificial teeth, and included artificial saliva and helium flow “to reproduce the breathing phenomena”—went up against actual human mouths in a Golden Delicious apple-eating contest. These human mouths chewed apple pieces “as naturally as possible” before spitting out the chewed up mass when they would have otherwise swallowed. The resulting mush was tested for texture, color, and volatile compound release, parameters which the group will soon use to optimize the device for aroma release.