Why airplane food sucks–a scientific explanation

We all like to gripe about airline food, especially here at Gadling. Last year we even came up with a challenge to see if you could tell airline food from army food. (I bombed that quiz)

Now scientists have discovered a possible explanation for the pervasive blandness we experience at 35,000 feet. In a new study, a team from Unilever and the University of Manchester has discovered that background noise affects the way we taste food. Volunteers were blindfolded and given a set of earphones. They ate various sweet, salty, and crunchy foods while listening either to loud or soft white noise or silence. The volunteers were asked to rate how much they liked the foods as well as how sweet, salty, or crunchy they were.

Louder noise made the sweet and salty ratings go down, while crunchiness went up. Also, how much the subjects liked their food was reduced the more noise they heard. One researcher suggested that the brain is distracted by the noise and is therefore less focused on perceiving flavor.

So don’t blame the cheap ingredients, the mass production, or the plastic containers. . .it’s the white noise that’s making you gag!

[Photo courtesy user andreakw via Gadling's flickr pool]