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Utah State Looking for a Few Good Tongues



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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Fishy? Rancid? Just right? Students at Utah State University get $65 and a coupon for free ice cream for tasting cheese.

"Some of it's pretty bad and some of it's all right," cheese taster Becky Thompson said.

Utah State specializes in agriculture, including dairy products. Researchers are trying to find ways to add omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart, to cheese. But they don't want to hurt the taste.

Research assistant Jennifer Thurgood said she chooses diverse panels because people have different tastes.

A recent group had several Americans, three people from India and one from Brazil. A professor in his white lab coat and a woman staff member carefully chewed their cheese with a look of deep concentration. No one had to swallow.

One of the tasters, Shaun Adams, a graduate student working on his master's degree in food science, wants to go into new product development.

He's been on several panels to taste frozen twice-baked potatoes, apple products and milk, in addition to cheese. He's never been on a meat panel -- and he's grateful.

"It hasn't been horrible, but it sticks with you," Adams said. "You're not used to eating bad cheese."

Thurgood believes many people believe tasters eat delicious food all day. "There's some icky flavors out there," she said. "There's a reason most things we taste in the store are so great."

Silvana Martini, an assistant professor in nutrition and food sciences, is assembling a 12-member panel of cheese testers committed to working a few hours a week for two years.

Those testers will earn $10 an hour, plus a stipend for attendance. They will undergo four months of training before ever getting a piece of cheese.

"Once you are part of these panels, you don't taste food the way you did before," Martini said.

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Information from: The Herald Journal

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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