- The biotech company Senomyx creates novel flavor enhancing compounds for the processed food industry in order to make foods and beverages that taste good while reducing sugar and salt content. Customers include Pepsi Co., Ajinomoto Co. (the maker of aspartame and meat glue), Nestlé and others
- The genetically engineered flavor enhancers work by triggering taste receptors on your tongue, effectively tricking your taste buds into sensing sweetness, saltiness, or “coolness”
- Senomyx has created a taste testing system that provides scientists with biochemical responses and electronic readouts when a flavor ingredient interacts with their patented receptor, letting them know whether or not they’ve “hit the mark” in terms of flavor. This process uses human kidney cells originating from an electively aborted human fetus
- These fetal kidney cells (HEK293) have been cloned for decades, as they offer a reliable way to produce new proteins using genetic engineering. Senomyx has engineered HEK293 cells to function like human taste receptor cells
- Flavor enhancers do not need to be listed on food labels, falling instead under the generic category of artificial and/or natural flavors.