Electric taste-altering chopsticks

Japanese researchers develop a way of seasoning our food by tricking our senses.

17 October 2022


By Mariusz Bogacki, Researcher and Science Communicator, Edinburgh

Japan is known for its innovative, often eccentric and sometimes, well… useless technological inventions! For example, last year researchers at the Meiji University in Tokyo, developed a “lickable” TV screen imitating food taste in order to enhance the multisensory viewing experience.

This year, the research team behind the lickable screen announced another food related technological creation: taste-altering chopsticks! The device consists of a computerised pair of chopsticks wired to a mini-computer worn on a wristband. The chopsticks use a weak electrical current to transmit sodium ions from food, through the chopsticks, to the mouth where they create a sense of saltiness. The weak electricity is used to adjust the function of ions such as sodium chloride and sodium glutamate to change the perception of taste by making food seem to taste stronger or weaker. The researchers claim that the device is able to enhance the taste of low sodium food by up to 1,5 times.

Imitating the levels of salt in food might not seem like a big deal. But the purpose of artificially creating the taste of salt is actually quite serious.

Salt consumption is no laughing matter in a country where soy sauce and miso soup are the staple of everyone’s diet. It is estimated that on average Japanese people consume around 10g of salt per day. This is double the amount recommended by the World Health Organisation. High salt intake is one of the major contributors to high blood pressure, which is the single biggest cause of heart attacks and strokes. By artificially enhancing the taste of salt in food, researchers hope to reduce the amount of salt consumption.

The prototype of these taste-altering chopsticks is still being refined in order to create the true umami taste of traditional Japanese dishes. The inventors hope that the new electrifying taste of their invention will land on consumers tables as early as next year.