Why does food taste bland on airplanes?
People having in-flight meals always find their food not particularly tasty. Is this a result of budget consideration of the airlines or some other causes?
It may be interesting to note that some physical parameters of the environment would affect our sense of tastes. According to some foreign studies, under dry and low air pressure conditions, the sensitivity of our taste buds to sweet and salty food will be reduced by 30%. Charles Spence, a professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, pointed out that food and drinks taste differently in the air as compared with that on the ground. There are several reasons for this. Among them, humidity, air pressure and environmental noise each plays a role.
After the plane takes off and reaches the cruising altitude (usually at about 30,000 feet high), the flight attendants will start to serve meal to the passengers. It is noteworthy that as the plane climbs, the environmental conditions like humidity and pressure in the cabin also change, and these could affect our sense of taste and smell of food.
At 30,000 feet, air in the cabin becomes very dry with the humidity drops significantly to the region of 20 percent or below. Due to lack of moisture, our sense of smell reduces and this affects our judgement on food taste. At the same time, lower air pressure will also affect the sensitivity of our taste buds. As a result, our perception of saltiness and sweetness of food also drops. All these make food taste blander inside the cabin of a flying aircraft. Of course, caterers of in-flight meals would endeavour to enrich the flavour of their food served aloft in response.
In the atmosphere, pressure and temperature are changing all the time. It seems like ‘magic’ to generate various kinds of weather phenomena. Be it sunny, rainy, windy, and cold or hot, they all affect our outdoor activities. In fact, changes of these physical parameters in the environment also affect humans, at indoor venues or at some dozen thousand feet above the ground.
(For more details, please click here to read the article written by Hong Kong Observatory)
(Information provided by Hong Kong Observatory)