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Science Reveals Why Airplane Food Tastes So Bad 388

Hugh Pickens writes "At low elevations, the 10,000 or so taste buds in the human mouth work pretty much as nature intended. But step aboard a modern airliner, and the sense of taste loses its bearings. Even before a plane takes off, the atmosphere inside the cabin dries out the nose. As the plane ascends, the change in air pressure numbs about a third of the taste buds, and at 35,000 feet with cabin humidity levels kept low by design to reduce the risk of fuselage corrosion, xerostomia or cotton mouth sets in. This explain why airlines tend to salt and spice food heavily. Without all that extra kick, food tastes bland. 'Ice cream is about the only thing I can think of that tastes good on a plane,' says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. 'Airlines have a problem with food on board. The packaging, freezing, drying and storage are hard on flavor at any altitude, let alone 30,000 feet.' Challenges abound. Food safety standards require all meals to be cooked first on the ground. After that, they are blast-chilled and refrigerated until they can be stacked on carts and loaded on planes. For safety, open-flame grills and ovens aren't allowed on commercial aircraft, so attendants must contend with convection ovens that blow hot, dry air over the food. 'Getting any food to taste good on a plane is an elusive goal,' says Steve Gundrum, who runs a company that develops new products for the food industry."
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Science Reveals Why Airplane Food Tastes So Bad

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  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:09AM (#39474483)


  • by Dave Whiteside ( 2055370 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:09AM (#39474495)

    they removed the kitchens to cram in more people

  • What a load of BS! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by na1led ( 1030470 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:10AM (#39474507)
    I find it hard to believe that because of high altitude, the food is going to taste bad, yet they can send food into space that astronauts say taste just fine. IMO, the reason the food tastes bad, is because the Air Lines are too damn cheap to provide good quality food!
  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:18AM (#39474633) Homepage Journal

    The peanut farmers successfully lobbied management.

    Then when peanuts were proven to be fatal to those with allergies, and banned after the government was lobbied, the potato chip lobbyists stepped in, and the premade-sandwich-maker's union had a few things to say as well.

    In the meantime, the people kept demanding cheaper and cheaper air fares, until the airlines finally gave up on subsidized meals and just started gouging people the same as a sports arena with a game on. Captive audience, extortionate prices. It's an obvious way to boost profits, right?

    But in all seriousness, I never found airline food to be any worse than any other steamer-tray/precooked meals I've had elsewhere. But I am annoyed that so many airlines have dropped food from their services entirely. I've even had a couple short-haul flights where they didn't even try to serve beverages, so you were effectively treated even worse than cattle: you have to provide water and food to cattle or be charged with animal abuse.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:20AM (#39474657) Journal

    What happened?

    Flights that normal people could afford.

  • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:26AM (#39474739)

    In the era of internet searches for flights basically the only thing you compete on is price and times. Everything else only matters to business customers who are contented with champagne and seats which don't jam their knees into their chins.

    And safety regulations, which, despite the talking points of some political parties, do exist for a reason.

    When the experience of travel matters (say a cruise) you can pitch a more expensive product than the next guy as a different experience that justifies a higher cost. But people view the air travel portion as an inconvenience (which I suppose it is) that must be endured rather than a value added part of the experience. No one likes flying anymore, and if you still do, there are some TSA screeners who will adjust your excitement to approved levels.

  • Cheapskates! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fleeped ( 1945926 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:28AM (#39474757)
    From TFA, 2nd page, shows the mentality:

    FOR airlines like Delta, these are not trivial matters. A decision a few years ago to shave one ounce from its steaks, for example, saved the airline $250,000 a year. And every step of kitchen labor increases costs when so many meals are prepared daily. An entrée accounts for about 60 percent of a meal’s cost, according to Delta, while appetizers account for 17 percent, salads 10 percent and desserts 7 percent.

    Delta also calculated that by removing a single strawberry from salads served in first class on domestic routes, it would save $210,000 a year. The company hands out 61 million bags of peanuts every year, and about the same number of pretzels. A one-cent increase in peanut prices increases Delta’s costs by $610,000 a year.

    The tastebud stuff sound like pathetic excuses..

  • by MisterMidi ( 1119653 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:31AM (#39474787) Homepage
    Because your appetite is regulated by cannabinoid neurotransmitters. Your brains can't tell the difference between the external cannabinoids (from your doob) and the ones it produces itself. Maybe they should start handing out space muffins on board :)
  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:38AM (#39474863) Homepage Journal

    For flights up to about 5 hours, most do indeed go without as these flights only offer a drink and your choice of overpriced candy bars. After that, people start to get antsy for some free meal of some sort (more so if they have some form of diabetes which you can be sure makes up a good sized contingent on any flight these days.) Why the airlines don't just offer meals that are intended to be cold (a nice chicken salad, a cold-cut sub sandwich, wrap, etc.) is beyond me.

    When I travel, I just buy one of these from the dozen or so places in any airport that vends them and don't worry about what (if anything) is going to be served in flight. The airlines really should just forgo any hot meal kind of options completely and just give food vouchers at the gate for any flight that included a meal, and the passengers can just go get the food they actually want and bring it with them.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @11:39AM (#39474871)
    This may be modded funny, but I was serious... this is exactly the type of 'well, it could happen' hypothetical attack that the TSA and it's counterparts around the world would take seriously. Recall that for a time (was it ever reversed?) passangers were forbidden from carrying their own drinks onto the flight out of a fear that the bottles could contain a liquid explosive?
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @12:08PM (#39475279) Homepage

    Then normal people got on the airplane and everything went down hill from there.

    Seriously. It used to be coat and tie. Now it looks like "People of Walmart".

  • by Eponymous Hero ( 2090636 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @12:14PM (#39475345)
    i inferred that he was dehydrated before he got on the flight. after all, about 75% of population is dehydrated at any given time. it's ironic that most people take some pill with water to cure a headache, when the water itself is mostly responsible for the cure. drink a soda. congrats, you're now dehydrated.
  • by nanoflower ( 1077145 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @12:30PM (#39475527)

    You were doing okay until that last statement. It's a popular myth that drinking a soda will dehydrate but studies have shown that the water loss due to the small amount of caffeine in a typical soda is greatly outweighed the water provided by the soda. So if you drink multiple sodas all day long you won't end up dehydrated due to the caffeine (though you may gain weight from all of the 'empty' calories.)

  • by VeryVito ( 807017 ) on Monday March 26, 2012 @12:47PM (#39475719) Homepage

    Bullshit. You can pay top prices for these flights, and you're still on those same planes. Fact is, unless you rent a private jet, you can't buy your way to a pleasant flight any more.

Forty two.