Do You Know Nutrition: Flavor enhancer flies under the radar

By Phylis Canion
Oct. 30, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

Our daughter is doing a research paper on food additives that do not have to be listed on food products. She came across senomyx, a flavor enhancer made from aborted fetal cells. Is this true?

Senomyx is a high-tech research business that develops flavor enhancers for consumable food, beverage and ingredient products. A senomyx chemical masks bitter flavors by turning off bitter flavor receptions on the tongue and enhancing sweet and salty (without actually tasting anything). These enhancers are used in small quantities so that they fly under the radar for labeling. Because they are not actually ingredients, but are referred to only as "flavor enhancers," they are not required to be listed as a product ingredient except as an artificial flavor.

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, senomyx boasts that they have discovered taste receptors using HEK293, which is human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted fetus.

While HEK293 was originally used by Dutch scientist Dr. Alex Van der Eb, HEK293 cells are becoming more widely used outside medical research.

When news broke of this being used as a flavor enhancer, one major company immediately stopped using the product, although there are others that continue at this date. For a food manufacturer to advertise that their product contains 50 percent less sugar or to be able to greatly reduce the amount of MSG (monosodium glutamate) by using senomyx, but still have that sweet, savory or salty taste is indeed a marketing coup.

Just as a footnote, senomyx has not undergone the Food and Drug Administration's usual safety approval process for food additives, rather it gained the generally regarded as safe status from the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (an industry-funded organization) in less than 18 months.

Unfortunately, the manufacturers' No. 1 goal is profit, not our health.

Thought for the week: Experience is something you get just after you need it.

Next free nutrition class at Organic Emporium is Nov. 12. Call 361-576-2100 to make your reservation.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant. Email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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