Can Supertaster Testing Reduce Food Waste?

Food waste has become a major issue since it is estimated that some 40% of all food that is produced is wasted. That is over 60 billion kilograms in North America alone. Recently, CALM (Canadian Ag Literacy Month) an organization in Saskatchewan decided to see if they could do something about it. CALM’s Christina Krysa sent us this report which we have included below & quote her directly.

On March 4 of 2019, Grade 3 students at Jack MacKenzie School in Regina, SK tested their taste buds using Indigo Instruments’ tasting strips. Why? Because they were launching Canadian Ag Literacy Month 2019 in Saskatchewan!

During March of every year, CALM engages Grade 1-6 Canadian students in learning about food-related topics. This year, Saskatchewan students learned about the problem of food waste and how they can help resolve the problem. During classroom presentations, students learned that our eating habits can affect the food-waste problem.

Sometimes, we take a few bites of some food and don’t like how it tastes, so we throw it out. How we taste food is affected by our taste buds, which are small bumps on our tongues.

Students Give Their Taste Buds a Workout

Students got to test their taste buds using Indigo Instruments’ PTC testing strips. Some students discovered they were Super Tasters (people with heightened sensitivity to bitter flavours), which could explain why they didn’t enjoy eating broccoli. Students then conducted a second taste test using Indigo Instruments’ Na benzoate strips for sensitivity to sour, sweet and salty flavours. After both taste tests, students knew more about what flavours appealed to their taste buds.

Saskatchewan Taste Test Students
Gr. 3 students at Jack MacKenzie School in Regina, SK give taste buds a workout.

For example, if the PTC strip tasted bitter and the Na benzoate strip tasted salty, then bitter-salty foods such as spinach, buttermilk and sauerkraut would be enjoyable. After testing, students learned that their taste buds change every 5-7 years, which means that they might grow to enjoy broccoli. They also learned that flavour preferences are genetically determined.

What We Taste

5-flavours

Are You A Supertaster?

How we taste food is affected by our taste buds, which are small bumps on our tongues.

super-taster

Strong bitter taste? (show of hands) You’re a Super Taster! You have strong likes and dislikes about food, and might be known as a “picky eater”! You likely find green vegetables bitter.
Slight bitter taste? (show of hands) You’re an Average Taster! You find most foods enjoyable and do not have strong likes or dislikes about food.
No taste? (show of hands) You’re a Low Taster! You can’t taste certain bitter flavours.

Taste Test Takeaways

Additional points to use, depending on grade:

• Phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) is a harmless chemical. Each test strip contains 3 to 5 micrograms of PTC. (One microgram is one millionth of a gram.)
• Biology labs & food testing laboratories have been using PTC strips for over 60 years in taste testing experiments.
• Being able to taste PTC is a dominant trait. There is a single gene that codes for a protein found in our tongues. PTC will bind with this protein if it is present, causing it’s bitterness to be detected. If the protein is not present, then the PTC molecule will not bind, so no bitterness will be tasted.
• Nearly 100% of Native Americans and Inuit are super or average tasters.
• Tasters are more likely to be non-smokers and not in the habit of drinking coffee or tea.
• Women, Asians and African-Americans are more likely to be supertasters.

tastebuds1

tastebuds2
As a result, we might acquire a taste for foods that we previously disliked and vice versa. Because our sense of taste changes over time, we should consider tasting foods that we previously disliked.

Store food properly, reconsider “best-before” dates, love leftovers, etc.

About Christina Krysa & AITC

Agriculture in the Classroom Saskatchewan (AITC-SK) is a registered charity that partners with the agriculture and education communities to connect kids and agriculture through innovative, experiential, curriculum-based programs and resources.

Christina is a project specialist at AITC with degrees in Math & English, and Education with an interest in gardening. As she explains:  “Sustainability of our food sources is essential. If young people learn where their food comes from, how to grow their own food, and realize how many exciting career possibilities exist in the diverse agriculture sector, then sustainability is attainable. As a means to this end, AITC’s engaging programming inspires students, and me!”

Additional Materials

  1. Taste Before You Waste
  2. Food Waste Quiz
  3. Taste bud on tongue (image free to use)
  4. Tongue surface (image free to use)
  5. PTC molecular model (assembled)
Summary
Taste Tests to Reduce Food Waste
Article Name
Taste Tests to Reduce Food Waste
Description
Reduce food waste with taste tasting strips by finding out what you or your kids don't like before you before buy certain foods.
Author
Indigo Instruments