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Electronic Nose Inspects Cheese, Hints At Human Sense Of Smell

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers at Ohio State University have shown that an electronic nose -- a computerized device that samples scents -- recognizes the unique flavors of different kinds of cheese.

Aside from determining the value of this technology for the food industry, this research may one day help scientists better understand the human sense of smell. W. James Harper, professor of food science and technology at Ohio State, explained that most companies employ human sensory panels -- professional taste and smell-testers -- to inspect products such as foods and beverages for which scent and flavor indicate quality. After testing a few samples, however, humans lose the ability to differentiate between similar scents and flavors and must take a rest.

Not so with electronic noses, which can test thousands of samples per day. Still, the machines can't independently gauge the quality of a scent or flavor. They can only compare it to what human noses and taste buds have previously deemed acceptable.

"An electronic nose is not a replacement for people -- it is a supplement," said Harper. "It allows companies to run a large number of samples without worrying about fatigue."

When electronic noses debuted commercially in 1995, the devices promised to test the qual
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Contact: W. James Harper
Harper.9@osu.edu
(614) 292-6281
Ohio State University
30-Sep-1998


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