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Trouble with taints From August 2009 newsletter

Food taints and off-flavors - Sensory aspects

Problems with taints and off-flavours can cost food and drink companies considerable money and time - in wasted product and resolving the problem. Understanding the cause is crucial in preventing recurrences - but demands significant skill and experience as taint problems are often sporadic. Rob Levermore of Campden BRI's Chemistry Department explains:

"Typical taint descriptions include, for example, 'antiseptic', 'musty', 'rancid' and 'petrol'. The client may have noticed the taint themselves or have received consumer complaints, but not know the cause. We have solved taint problems over many years, so with knowledge of the product and its history can quickly form a view of likely causes. We use state-of-the-art equipment, like mass spectrometry, to confirm our suspicions or to identify new problem chemicals - which helps establish how the problem arose."

Phil Voysey of our Microbiology Department comments: "'Nail varnish' taint can arise from yeast contamination. For example, if the yeast is present in a glaze applied to the product post-baking, a distinctive taint can develop with time. Understanding that this has a microbiological rather than chemical cause is essential in preventing recurrences."

Sometimes a company suspects that it has a taint problem, but isn't sure. Our sensory descriptive panel can help establish whether there is a problem, as Susan Rogers explains: "Our panels of trained assessors can assess products using descriptive analysis and provide meaningful guidance to our chemists in their investigations. This multidisciplinary approach works extremely well."

Wine is a product in which taints can have many causes and be particularly contentious, as Geoff Taylor of Campden BRI's Corkwise explains: "Wine taints can arise from inadequately cleaned vats, tainted wood, cleaning fluids, closures, dirty bottles or proximity to odours. As well as tackling these, we have recently developed a new technique for quantification of 'aerial taint' - arising from the atmosphere in wineries, warehouses and cellars."


Chemical analysis - Rob Levermore
+44(0)1386 842264

Microbiology - Phil Voysey
+44(0)1386 842069

Sensory analysis - Susan Rogers
+44(0)1386 842230

Wine - Geoff Taylor
+44(0)1737 824244

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