Homework Question!

Food Avoidances

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From the articles:

  1. What foods of your culture do you reject and why?
  2. Which quality in foods most affects your acceptance or rejection of a food? Use the reasons suggested in the Food Acceptance/Rejection article.
  3. Do children’s tastes in foods change over time? Why?
  4. What food/s did you hate as a child, but like now?
  5. List 3 specific examples of where our food likes and dislikes come from.
  6. What is a permanent food taboo? Give a specific example.
  7. What is a temporary food taboo? Give a specific example.

From the video (minutes 0-29:40): 


  1. What foods were featured?
  2. Describe an experience you’ve had with an unfamiliar food.

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Attachment 1

Quesnel, Michel, Yves-Marie Blanchard, and Claude Tassin. Nourriture et repas dans les milieux juifs et chrétiens de l’an- tiquité: Mélanges offerts au Professeur Charles Perrot [Food and Meals in Jewish and Christian Circles in Antiquity: Collected Essays in Honor of Professor Charles Perrot]. Paris: Cerf, 1999.

Staffe, Baronne. Usages du monde [Manners in Polite Society]. Paris: G. Havard Fils, 1899.

Toffin, G. Pyangaon, communauté newar de la vallée de Kathman- dou: La vie matérielle [Pyangaon, a Newar Community in the Katmandu Valley: The Materials of Everyday Life]. Chapter 4. Paris: CNRS, 1977.

Visser, Margaret. The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners. New York: Grove Wiedenfield, 1991.

Margaret Visser

TABOOS. A food taboo is a prohibition against con- suming certain foods. The word “taboo” (also spelled “tabu”) is Polynesian and means ‘sacred’ or ‘forbidden’; it has a quasi-magical or religious overtone. The term was introduced in the anthropological literature in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the field of food and nutrition, food taboos are not necessarily connected with magical-religious practices, and some nutritionists prefer to speak of “food avoidance.” In this article these terms are used interchangeably.

Food is a culturally specific concept. In general, any- thing can function as food if it is not immediately toxic. But what is edible in one culture may not be in another. The concept of food is determined by three factors: bi- ology, geography, and culture. Certain plants and ani- mals are not consumed because they are indigestible. Geography also plays a role. For example, dairy products are not part of the food culture of the humid tropical re- gions since the geographical conditions for keeping cat- tle are unfavorable. Milk is often a taboo food in such cultures. Insects are not considered food in Europe and most of the United States despite attempts to introduce them in the late twentieth century. This is because there are few edible insects in regions with temperate climates. In Mexico, by contrast, insects are packaged in plastic sa- chets, cans, or jars for sale. Cultural reasons for food taboos often have a geographical basis—unknown or ex- otic foods will be rejected as unfit for consumption.

It is of interest to note that food avoidance most fre- quently relates to animal meat, since in most cultures hu- man beings have an emotional relationship with animals they have to kill to eat. One of the few taboos of a food of vegetable origin is the prohibition against alcohol for Muslims and some Christian denominations.

Food may establish a cultural identity of an ethnic group, religion, or nation. Food taboos in a society func- tion also as a means to show differences between various groups and strengthen their cultural identity. Refraining

from eating pork is not only a question of religious iden- tity but is likewise an indication of whether or not one belongs to the Jewish or Muslim cultural community. In order to better understand the range of food taboos, it is useful to distinguish between permanent and temporary food taboos or food avoidances.

Permanent Food Taboos Foods that are permanent taboos or avoidances are al- ways prohibited for a specific group. The classic exam- ple of a permanent food taboo is the prohibition against pork by Jews and Muslims. The Jewish prohibition against pork is found in Leviticus 11:1. Some anthropol- ogists point out that food taboos are based on the failure of these foods to fit into the usual systems of classifica- tion. Foods that do not fit into these classifications are unsuitable for consumption, or unclean. According to the Qur’an (2, 168), Muslims should not only avoid pork, but also blood, non-ritually slaughtered animals, and cadav- ers and alcohol. In the case of both Jewish and Muslim food taboos, the foods themselves are considered unclean. A different concept of food avoidance is found in Hin- duism. Hindus abstain from eating beef because cows are considered sacred. Various arguments have been used to explain the origins of such food taboos or food avoidance including religion, culture, and hygiene.

Marvin Harris has rightly pointed out that when peo- ple reject certain foods, there must be a logical and eco- nomical reason for doing so. The pig is an animal of sedentary farmers and unfit for a pastoral way of life be- cause pigs cannot be herded over long distances without suffering a high rate of mortality. Herdsmen generally despise the lifestyle of sedentary farming communities.

In Western society cats and dogs are not consumed because of the emotional relationships developed with these pets. Increasingly pets are being “humanized” in such a way that eating them is seen as an act of anthro- pophagy or cannibalism. The feeling of closeness to cer- tain animals can also be found in the savannah regions of West Africa. Certain West African clans consider dogs clan animals, based on the fact that they have been ben- eficial to the clan in the past; as clan animals they are unfit for consumption. Hippocrates (460–377 B.C.E.) re- garded dog meat favorably as a light meal, but in later antiquity, dogs were considered unclean and unfit to eat. This is still the case in the Mediterranean area and the Middle East. By contrast, dog meat is popular in China and the mountainous regions of the Philippines. From a nutritional point of view, dog meat is an excellent source of animal protein, and dogs do not require the grazing area demanded by cattle or other large ruminants.

Temporary Food Taboos or Avoidances Some foods are avoided for certain periods of time. These restrictions often apply to women and relate to the re- production cycle.


384 E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F F O O D A N D C U L T U R E

The times of temporary food avoidances related to particular periods of the life cycle include:

• Pregnancy

• Birth

• Lactation

• Infancy

• Initiation

• Periods of illness or sickness

From a nutritional point of view, temporary food avoidances are of great importance as they concern vul- nerable groups: pregnant women, breast-feeding women, and infants and children during the period of weaning and growth. Food regulations and avoidances during these periods often deprive the individual of nutrition- ally valuable foods such as meat, fish, eggs, or vegetables. In a number of African countries pregnant women avoid green vegetables. They also do not consume fish. When asked why, women say the unborn child might develop a head shaped like that of a fish. Some of these avoidances may seem odd from a scientific point of view, but there is often an unnoticed logic behind it. In the first place, women are aware of the critical period and know that much has to be done to ensure the successful delivery of a healthy child. Observing the rules of avoidance will give her the strength of knowing that everything possible has been done for the benefit of the child.

In Central Africa nutritionists observed that young children did not eat eggs. They were worried that a nu- tritious food was not available for this vulnerable group. The village elders gave a convincing explanation of why eggs should be avoided by children. In the past the wise ancestors were much concerned about young children roaming around the villages searching for eggs and even chasing the brood hens away from their eggs. In order to avoid a depletion of the poultry stock, the elderly de- cided that eggs were harmful to young children and should be avoided.

A different form of temporary food avoidances in- volves the rules of fasting. In medieval Christianity the most important period of fasting was Lent (the period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday), during which meat and animal products were forbidden. There were also other days (Ember Days, Fridays, etc.) on which peo- ple were required to abstain from eating meat. The Re- formation broke the tradition of fasting to a large extent. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has a wide and compli- cated system of dietary rules and fasting, as does the East- ern Orthodox Church. In the Muslim world, Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year, means strict fasting, even from beverages, from sunrise to sunset (Sakr).

Do Food Taboos Change and Disappear? Food taboos may seem rather stable, but they are often under pressure because the society is changing. Migra- tion is a powerful factor in the process of changing food

culture. In Europe and North America, most Muslim mi- grants from the Middle East and South Asia try to main- tain their food habits, but some cannot fully resist the food culture of their new home country. A substantial number of Muslims begin drinking beer, wine, and even stronger spirits. Women tend to be less inclined to give up the avoidance of alcohol. The fear of pollution from pork often remains strong, however. In some European countries Muslims refrain from eating in factory canteens out of fear that meals may be polluted with pork fat or pork meat. In contrast, many Jewish Europeans and Americans eat pork from time to time, or even on a reg- ular basis.

Nutrition and health education have reduced the temporary food avoidances of the vulnerable groups in a great number of countries. In the humid tropical coun- tries of Africa and Asia, where the raising of dairy ani- mals is unfavorable, the rejection of milk as a food is diminishing. Despite the occurrence of lactose intoler- ance among the population, the use of milk and milk products has extended since colonial times. Primary lac- tose intolerance occurs from an apparent decrease in the intestinal enzyme lactase and can occur between the ages of two and five years. This condition is present in about 75 percent of the world population. However, small but significant quantities of milk consumed throughout the day can be tolerated among ethnic groups known to be lactose intolerant. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, milk products and a little fresh milk are avail- able for the upper and middle classes. This availability seems to have increased due to dairy exports from West- ern countries and dairy food aid during the 1950s through the 1970s. In a country without a dairy tradition such as Indonesia, the importation of canned sweetened con- densed milk can be traced back to around 1883. In the high lands of Java, the Dutch introduced dairy farming on a small scale in the nineteenth century. From the colonists, a modest use of milk spread gradually among the emerging Indonesian upper and middle classes.

In the United States and other countries with Anglo-Saxon traditions, horsemeat is not part of the food culture. This is in contrast to continental Europe, in par- ticular France, where horsemeat is a well-known and ap- preciated food. The history of horsemeat gives insight into how attitudes toward food avoidance change over the course of time. In Europe it started with a decree by Pope Gregory III (d. 714) that the Christian communi- ties of Germany and the Low Countries refrain from eat- ing horsemeat because the horse played an important role in pagan rituals. The purpose of the decree was that the Christian community should distinguish itself from the pagans by avoiding a typical pagan symbol, horsemeat. Gradually the consumption of horseflesh disappeared. The meat was considered to be unfit for consumption. In the nineteenth century the attitude toward horsemeat changed dramatically. Food emergencies connected with war and promotion of horsemeat as a food were the


E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F F O O D A N D C U L T U R E 385

driving forces for change. During the Napoleonic Wars, hungry soldiers were forced to eat their horses. To their surprise, the meat was fit to eat and even had a reason- ably good taste. French pharmacists promoted the idea that horsemeat was suitable for consumption, and from a scientific point of view no threat at all to health. Dis- carded workhorses became a source of good and cheap meat for the growing working classes in urban France. The concept of horsemeat as food spread to other Eu- ropean countries, but not to the United Kingdom, where the horse remained a noble animal, and the idea of eat- ing horsemeat was viewed with disgust.

In periods of emergency, dietary rules including food avoidances can be temporarily ended. The West African Fulani pastoralists avoid the consumption of fish. During the dry season the herdsmen have to move with their cattle from the northern savannahs to the land along the Niger River in the south. Because of the seasonal food shortage, herdsmen are more or less forced to turn to eating fish. In rural areas with a dry and a rainy sea- son, people will collect in the period of seasonal food shortage the so-called hungry foods. Hungry foods are mainly wild foods, often not very attractive and tasty and as such normally avoided. They are consumed only in an emergency.

See also Africa; Anthropology and Food; Christianity; Fast- ing and Abstinence; Feasts, Festivals, and Fasts; Hip- pocrates; Hinduism; Islam; Judaism; Lent; Middle Ages, European; Ramadan; Religion and Food; Shrove Tuesday.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Brothwell, Don, and Patricia Brothwell. Food in Antiquity. Lon-

don: Thames and Hudson, 1969.

De Garine, Igor. “The Socio-cultural Aspects of Nutrition.” Ecology of Nutrition 1 (1972): 143–163.

Den Hartog, Adel P. “Acceptance of Milk Products in South- east Asia. The Case of Indonesia as a Traditional Non- dairying Region.” In Asian Food. The Global and the Local, edited by Katarzyna Cwiertka and Boudewijn Walraven. Richmond, Va.: Curzon Press, 2002.

Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pol- lution and Taboos. London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1966.

Gade, Daniel W. “Horsemeat as Human Food in France.” Ecol- ogy of Food and Nutrition 5 (1976): 1–11.

Grivetti, Louis E., and R. M. Pangborn. “Origin of Selected Old Testament Dietary Prohibitions.” Journal of the Amer- ican Dietatic Association 65 (1974): 634–638.

Harris, Marvin. Good to Eat. Riddles of Food and Culture. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.

Kilara, A., and K. K. Iya. “Food and Dietary Habits of the Hindu.” Food Technology 46 (1992): 94–104.

Sakr, A. H. “Fasting in Islam.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 67 (1971): 17–21.

Shack, William A. “Anthropology and the Diet of Man.” In Diet of Man, Needs and Wants, edited by John Yudkin. London: Applied Sciences Publishers, 1978.

Simoons, Frederick J. Eat Not This Flesh: Food Avoidances from Prehistory to Present. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

Adel P. den Hartog

TAILLEVENT. Taillevent (c. 1315–1395), whose real name was Guillaume Tirel, was employed in the kitchens of the French court from the 1320s to until his death in 1395. The recipes from the manuscript cook- book with which his name is associated, Le Viandier, were copied and widely disseminated both during and long af- ter Taillevent’s lifetime and had an enormous influence on French cookery, as evidenced by the different versions to be found in various existing manuscripts. Toward the end of the fifteenth century, as the first cookbook to be printed in France, a greatly enlarged version of Le Viandier remained in circulation for over a century and had an enormous influence on French cookery. Because of the success of his cookbook, Taillevent can rightfully be called the first chef to achieve “star” status in France, where his name became synonymous with “master chef.”

Taillevent’s recipes, destined principally for festive occasions, give us a glimpse of the kind of cuisine prac- ticed in the aristocratic households from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. Characterized by the use of a wide range of spices—in keeping with the dietetic prin- ciples of the time that demanded that the cold, wet “hu- mors” of meats, fish, and vegetables be tempered by the hot, dry “virtues” of spices—they call for such familiar ingredients as veal, capon, or pike, as well as much more exotic foods like crane, swan, or sturgeon, prized for the beauty of their feathers (placed back over them to serve), or for their sheer size. Among the new recipes included in the printed Viandier at the end of the fifteenth cen- tury, the importance of pâtés and tarts in the French culi- nary landscape is documented for the first time.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Hyman, Philip, and Mary Hyman. “Le Viandier de Taillevent.”

In Les fastes du Gothique: Le siècle de Charles V. Paris: Edi- tions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1981.

Hyman, Philip. “Les livres de cuisine et le commerce des re- cettes en France aux XVe et XVIe siècles.” In Du Manu- scrit à la Table. Carole Lambert (ed.). Paris: Slatkine, 1992.

Laurioux, Bruno. Le règne de Taillevent. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1997.

Mary Hyman Philip Hyman

TAKE-OUT FOOD. Take-out food is food pre- pared for consumption away from the location where it is purchased. As a term, its first appearance was in James Cain’s novel Mildred Pierce (1941), in which the main character expressed her desire to sell pies to the take-out


386 E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F F O O D A N D C U L T U R E

Attachment 2

ACCEPTANCE AND REJECTION. Foods vary along a hedonic dimension, that is, in their ability to evoke pleasure. A food’s hedonic value can differ signif- icantly between individuals and among cultures. In developed countries at least, pleasure is probably the strongest determinant of diet. For most of us, most of the time, a global emotional response to the taste of a food determines whether it is consumed. Underlying this seemingly simple decision is a remarkable range of emo- tions—from blissful appreciation of haute cuisine to a profound rejection elicited by feelings of disgust. As with many other complex human behaviors, the development of food likes and dislikes reflects the operation of mul- tiple influences—genetic inheritance, maternal diet, child raising practices, learning, cognition, and culture. In fact, the development of food preferences may be an ideal model of the interplay of these influences during our life span.

Foods may be selected or rejected for a variety of reasons, including their anticipated effects on health, their perceived ethical or environmental appropriateness, or practical considerations as price, availability, and con- venience. However, it is our responses to the sensory properties of a food—its odor, taste, flavor, and texture— that provide the underlying basis of food acceptance. This article will focus on some of the influences that shape he- donic responses to foods, their flavors, and other sensory qualities.

Tastes Despite evidence of innate hedonic responses to basic tastes, the vast majority of specific food likes and dislikes are not predetermined—no one is born liking blue cheese, for example. This is not to suggest that basic sen- sory qualities are unimportant. On the contrary, relatively fixed hedonic responses to sweet, salty, bitter, and umami (glutamate taste) tastes, and almost certainly fat, are pre- sent at or shortly after birth, and continue to exert an in- fluence on food preferences. The strong affinity that children show for very sweet foods, and the persistence of the early development of liking for the taste of salt and salty foods throughout life appear to be universal. A ma- jority in many Western societies also choose a diet that is high in fat.

However, innate responses do not account for the broad range of food likes and dislikes that develop be- yond infancy. For instance, humans and many other mammals can detect bitterness at low levels and find it unpalatable because it is a potential sign of toxicity. Yet, while coffee and beer are typically rejected on first tast- ing, they are ultimately the strongest contenders for be- ing the global beverages. The pungency of spicy foods is also initially rejected. Worldwide, though, chili is second only to salt as a food spice. Thus, although innate influ- ences are clearly important in food selection, these are modified by our experience with foods (although both physiological makeup and culture will partly determine the extent to which experience is allowed to operate). What is more important than our innate preferences is the fact that we are predisposed to learn to like (and some- times, dislike) foods. Some other preferences do appear to be common across cultures whose diets are very dif- ferent. However, examples such as the widespread liking for vanilla and chocolate flavor are likely to reflect some degree of common experience.

Texture Texture is a crucial criterion for sensory acceptance and rejection. Certain textures do seem to be universally liked, crispness, for example—perhaps through its asso- ciation with freshness. Of course, to some extent, we will always prefer textures that are compatible with our den- tition, and thus we would not expect infants to like hard foods. Foods that are difficult to manipulate in the mouth—such as soggy foods—are commonly disliked, as are foods that require excessive saliva and effort to swal- low, such as dry, tough meat. While food texture is of- ten cited as a reason for rejecting food, for example raw oysters, it is likely that such preferences are also a func- tion of our prior expectations for specific foods.

Color Food color is also undoubtedly a strong influence on ac- ceptability, but again this is likely to reflect prior expec- tations. Whether we prefer white (U.S.) or yellow (U.K.) butter depends on what we have eaten in the past. Some colors have been thought to be inappropriate for food. The color blue, for instance, has been suggested as a can- didate for a universally inappropriate food color—after



all, very few foods are naturally blue. But recent market- ing of brightly and “inappropriately” colored foods for children tends to undermine this notion, since the chil- dren appear receptive to unusual colors. Removing color from common foods does reliably reduce liking for those foods, perhaps by undermining our ability to identify their flavor, thus making them seem less familiar.

Fear of the New The fact that humans are omnivores creates a paradox. On the one hand, we have access to a large range of po- tential nutrients; conversely (in nature at least), we are much more likely to be exposed to toxic substances. In the first two to three years of our lives, we exist in a highly protected environment, first in the context of breast or bottle feeding, and then through parental food selection and supervision. It is therefore adaptive for young infants to accept a wide variety of foods as the risk of exposure to potentially toxic nonfoods is low.

In later infancy, greater independence is typical, both in terms of the wider variety of other people encountered and also of the potential to come into contact with edi- ble substances, which may be unsuitable for health or other reasons, outside direct parental influence. At this point, food neophobia often becomes apparent. Reluc- tance to consume novel foods at this age is most obvi- ously reflected in statements of “I don’t like it” to foods that have never been tried. The rejection of unfamiliar foods can now be seen as adaptive, given the wider risk of ingestion of potentially toxic substances. Food neo- phobia is found not just in humans, but also in a variety of non-human species, including rats, dogs, birds, and fish. Hence, it may be a universal safeguard against po- tential toxics.

The trait of food neophobia has been investigated in different age groups, as has the nature of the “fear” and how it can be modified. Even in adults, there often re- main strong vestiges of childhood neophobia. While many welcome the chance to sample exotic foods or novel flavors, others remain unable to even consider consump- tion of foods beyond their usual repertoire.

Such reluctance is especially strong for foods of an- imal origin (unfamiliar meats, dairy products, or eggs), the same foods that elicit reactions of disgust, also thought to be a protective mechanism. Why this food- related personality trait varies so much among adults is unclear, but it might reflect the breadth of experience with different foods in childhood.

Interestingly, in both children and adults, food neo- phobia appears to be mediated less by any conscious awareness of the potential for danger, than by the much more immediate fear that foods will taste unpleasant. Consistent with this, willingness to try a novel food can be increased by strategies that reduce this anxiety, in- cluding providing information about the food’s flavor or indicating that others have enjoyed it since. Highly neo- phobic individuals are more likely to choose an unfamil-

iar food after they have seen others select it. Specific nu- tritional information (such as the fact that a food is low in fat) also encourages selection of novel foods, but only for those for whom nutrition is important. In each case, the net effect is to assure the taster that the food is ac- ceptable in terms of flavor and perhaps safety. Neopho- bia is a major issue for many parents concerned about the narrow range of foods that their children are willing to consume. A common strategy is to use one food as a re- ward for eating another food—one that the adult wants the child to eat. Unfortunately, these attempts frequently fail because the relative value of the foods is quite ap- parent. Rewarding the consumption of spinach by giving ice cream presents a message simple enough for any young child: ice cream is a good food (at least in terms of taste), otherwise why use it as a reward; spinach is bad, else why do I need to be rewarded for eating it? The un- fortunate, if predictable, consequences of such strategies are increased liking for the reward and a decrease in lik- ing for the target food.

Learning to Like What does reduce neophobia and encourage consump- tion? In both children and adults, repeated exposure has been found to lead to increased acceptability of novel foods, with greater exposure producing greater liking. For example, three- and four-year-old children have been found to accept initially rejected cheese and fruits fol- lowing ten exposures. It is possible that individuals who receive repeated exposure to a wide variety of foods as infants and children are least likely to be highly neopho- bic as adults, although this has yet to be established. That is, the more we experience different foods, the more we are willing to experience different foods.

Exposure appears to be the one mechanism that is necessary for liking to increase. With novel foods or fla- vors, repeated consumption might lead to increased lik- ing via a reduction in neophobia—effectively a relief from the anxiety associated with novelty. It certainly produces an increase in familiarity, an important aspect of chil- dren’s likes and dislikes, and it has been recognized for some time that sensations of recognition are in them- selves positive. However, changes in liking for food in- gredients or ingredient levels in already familiar foods strongly suggest that exposure per se produces liking, and that a food or flavor does not need to be completely novel. There are many commonplace examples of this, includ- ing the gradual increase in liking that accompanies chang- ing from regular to low-fat milk or low-salt soup, or reducing sugar in tea or coffee.

Although it is a necessary precondition, by itself, ex- posure is insufficient to explain why we end up liking some foods more than others. There appears to be a va- riety of other processes that operate during repeated food experiences, producing preferences for the diverse range of food odors and flavors that we encounter. Whether sniffed as aromas, or as characteristic flavor qualities in


2 E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F F O O D A N D C U L T U R E

the mouth, food odors reliably inform us whether we have previously experienced a food. Odors are thus most likely to be the source of neophobic responses. However, there is nothing intrinsic to the odor or flavor of any food that means we will develop a strong like or dislike for it. Dur- ing our early infancy (up to about three years old), we appear to be neutral to most if not all odors, except for those that also produce nasal irritation, such as ammo- nia. In contrast to those for tastes, odor preferences are almost certainly all learned, and rely upon our ability to form associations with other liked qualities. Pairing a novel flavor with a sweet taste, for example, reliably in- creases subsequent liking for that flavor, even when the sweetness is not present. This process, known as classi- cal conditioning or associative learning, was first de- scribed scientifically by Ivan Pavlov. He famously demonstrated that the sound of a bell, previously associ- ated with the presentation of food, would elicit gastric secretions in his dogs. While the principles of Pavlovian conditioning were developed using animal (especially rat) models, they appear equally applicable to explaining as- pects of human food likes and dislikes.

The universal high palatability of sweetness and fat is a reflection of the ability of substances associated with these qualities to provide energy to the body. Our bod- ies find the provision of energy inherently rewarding. Consequently, repeatedly pairing flavors with ingested carbohydrates or fats produces increases in liking for as- sociated flavors. Other postingestional consequences have also been described, including enhanced liking for flavors paired with the alerting effects of caffeine—a plau- sible mechanism, together with the energy provided by the sugar and milk fat sometimes added, for the enor- mous popularity of coffee.

The effects of conditioning by positive association and the absorption of energy-rich foods are broad enough mechanisms to account for very many food likes. One implication of this process and the body’s response to en- ergy is that we end up showing a liking for foods that are high in sugar and fat. Clearly, this has implications for health. We may know that high-fat foods present us with a risk in the long term, but what drives our behavior pri- marily is the fact that we like the fat—it gives the food a pleasant mouthfeel, it carries flavor well, and its provides the body with energy. The body’s response is to promote liking for flavor associated with the fat. Eventually, it is not just the fat or sugar content that we find palatable, but the specific flavor of the food as well.

Food dislikes may also result from Pavlovian condi- tioning. Associating a characteristic food flavor with nau- sea, as sometimes occurs with food poisoning or a coincidental illness, will promote a rapid, often irre- versible, “taste” aversion that actually seems to make the flavor become unpleasant. The development of aversions can be seen as highly adaptive—it makes sense to avoid foods previously associated with gastric illness. Conse- quently, the conditioned association tends to be very

strong. In humans, taste aversions are typically both long lasting and robust enough to persist even if it is known that the food was not the source of the illness. As with neophobic responses, meat seems to be a common target when aversions do occur. An unfortunate consequence of the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy is the development of taste aversions. Close to three-quarters of children aged two to fifteen years old undergoing treat- ment are reported to have at least one aversion. Taste aversions are not common enough to account for the ma- jority of our food dislikes, since they appear to occur in only about 30 percent of people. However, they are a powerful indicator of the role that consequences of food ingestion can play in shaping our responses to a food’s sensory qualities.

Odors are not the only sensory qualities in foods for which preferences are shaped by learning. Our most primitive sense is the detection of pain—unsurprisingly,


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This sequence of pictures shows the reactions of babies from four to ten hours old prior to experiencing food of any sort. The left column shows their natural response to the sweetness of sucrose placed on the tongue, while the right column shows their response to the bitterness of quinine. Their facial expres- sions resemble those of adults tested for the same responses. PHOTO COURTESY OF DR. JACOB STEINER.


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At some time, most of us have experienced a craving for a specific food—something that we must have now, and which we will go out of our way to obtain. It is almost as if the body is insisting that we must have that food. There is much anecdotal information about craving and physiological needs, but less hard evidence for such spe- cific appetites. It is clear that we get hungry and thirsty, but does the body really crave particular nutrients?

The one incontrovertible specific hunger that hu- mans possess is for sodium chloride, common salt. Salt is metabolically essential and most of the time this need is both met and exceeded through diet. Clinical studies have demonstrated that in cases where the body is de- pleted of salt, humans develop strong appetites for the taste of salt, and its normal degree of palatability is in- creased. The same is true in experiments in which vol- unteers are fed low-salt diets—salty foods increase in palatability. Hence, it appears that a change in the he- donic value of the taste of salt is the mediator for in- creased intake when depleted.

Beyond salt appetite, however, there is little strong evidence that other specific appetites exist. There are re- ports suggesting an association between pica (the con- sumption of earth) and mineral (especially iron) deficiency. This practice appears to be most prevalent among pregnant women in poor rural communities. Preg- nancy is well known to be associated with craving for foods, but it is not clear whether such “normal” cravings are related to metabolic needs.

The single most commonly craved food in Western societies is chocolate. Although chocolate contains phamacologically active compounds, there is no evi- dence these compounds are what is craved. Instead, the craving for chocolate is related to craving sweet foods generally and to chocolate’s palatability, based on an op- timal combination of sugar and fat. Chocolate craving is more common among women, and hormonal influences have been suggested as being important. The craving shows a peak around the time of menstruation and is also more common during pregnancy. While chocolate and sweet food cravings do occur among males, cravings for savory foods are more common.

A less extreme version of craving is the phenome- non of “moreishness.” Again, wanting “just one more bite” appears to reflect the high palatability of certain foods, rather than a desire for any specific nutrient. Foods described as moreish also tend to be consumed in small amounts. Often their consumption is subject to a volun- tary restraint determined by social mores; you may want another slice of cake, another piece of chocolate, or an- other potato chip, but will often hold back to avoid seem-

ing intemperate. Because of the typically small portion sizes associated with moreish food, this may be an ex- ample of the appetizer effect, which occurs when the ini- tial consumption of palatable foods increases appetite for further eating.

Explanations for craving, moreishness, and appetizer effects have recently focused on the brain’s biochemistry, in particular those functions mediated by opioid (mor- phinelike) peptides. Interfering with the functioning of this biochemical system using opioid blocking drugs leads to reduced food consumption overall and also to attenuation of appetizer effects, apparently because the foods become less palatable. Conversely, it is possible that increased opioid levels may induce cravings by mak- ing foods more palatable. Such changes may occur in a variety of circumstances—dieting, stress, exercise, alco- hol consumption—all of which are known to influence the brain’s opioid systems.

Cravings thus tell us little about the body’s nutri- tional needs, beyond the fact that highly palatable foods tend to be high in energy. Other evidence also points to strategies to maximize energy intake. At least in Western countries, given ample availability, we tend to consume a diet that contains 35 to 40 percent fat, well in excess of what we need to survive. Moreover, from early in- fancy onwards, we will attempt to compensate for re- ductions in calories at one meal with an increase at the next.

In addition to energy intake, we seem predisposed, as omnivores, to seek variety in our diet. As noted in the section on sensory-specific satiety, this may be one way of optimizing survival through ensuring adequate nutri- ent intake. Classic studies on dietary self-selection were carried out by Clara Davis in the 1920s and 1930s. She allowed recently weaned infants access to a varied se- lection of foods and found that they first tasted widely and then developed preferences for a selection of these foods. This research has been often misinterpreted to sug- gest that the body has an innate wisdom, in that the foods the infants selected represented a balanced nutrient in- take. This was inevitable, however, given the range of foods available.

This is not to say that mechanisms responsive to our needs are not in operation. On the contrary, the palata- bility of energy and sodium sources, the avoidance of toxins through dislike of bitterness, the rapid formation of aversions to foods associated with gastric illness, and the maintenance of nutrient variety via sensory-specific satiety, are all innate predispositions that modulate the hedonic value of sensory properties of foods to help en- sure survival.

since pain avoidance is the simplest key to survival. How then to explain the fact that at least a quarter of the world’s population each day consume (and presumably enjoy) a meal containing an extremely potent irritant, capsaicin, which is present in chilies? Whatever the source of our increasing preference for pungency in foods, it must be a potent mechanism. Apart from the warning signals for pain, our bodies possess a built-in re- sponse to high levels of irritation. This defensive reflex, as it is known, consists of increased blood flow to the head, profuse sweating, tearing, and nasal discharge— physiological changes that are thought to have evolved as a means of rapidly eliminating toxins. Although fre- quent consumers of spicy foods experience somewhat less intense physiological responses and burn than infrequent users, there is no doubt that the burning sensations are actually part of the reason these foods are consumed, not something to be tolerated for other reasons.

Both regular exposure, commencing during breast- feeding, and postingestional energy conditioning are likely to play a part in the development of liking for hot foods, particularly in countries whose staple diet in- cludes high levels of spiciness. To explain the recent increase in liking for hot foods in Western countries, though, a number of other interesting mechanisms have also been proposed. These include the hypothesis that the painful experience may activate the brain’s natural opioid (morphinelike) biochemical systems, dampening pain and producing a chili eater’s “high.” Alternatively, it has been suggested that we derive pleasure from the “thrill” of the benign but highly stimulating experience of consuming hot foods.

Where Do Differences in Food Likes Come From? If exposure, together with resultant learning processes, can substantially explain food preference development, what accounts for the differences in which foods we come to like? Exposure to flavors is now known to begin even prior to birth. Amniotic fluid, which comes into contact with the taste and odor receptors in the mouth and nose of the fetus, carries both taste and odor qualities. There is good evidence that the maternal diet during pregnancy can influence food preferences of the child following birth. Thus, it has been shown that infants whose moth- ers consumed carrot juice during pregnancy showed a greater liking for carrot-flavored cereal at six months of age than did a control group of children whose mothers consumed only water. Following birth, a wide range of flavors derived from the maternal diet is carried in breast milk, and this also influences an infant’s later food pref- erences, including greater acceptance of novel flavors. In other words, the variety of a mother’s diet can promote a varied set of food preferences in the infant. As a result, breast-fed babies are more likely to develop preferences following exposure to novel foods as infants. Whether this reflects early exposure to particular flavors, or a general effect of previous maternal dietary variety, is uncertain.

Social Influences From childhood on, social interactions, whether within the family or with other groups, provide the context within which the majority of food experiences occur, and hence by which learning of food likes is facilitated. The pleasure associated with such interactions—the convivi- ality of a meal shared with friends, for example—may rep- resent just as positive a conditioning stimulus for a new food flavor as sweetness. Thus, it may be that our esti- mation of the food at a restaurant has as much to do with the social environment as it does with the chef’s skills. In children, pairing foods with the presence of friends, a liked celebrity, or attention by adults all increase liking for those foods, no doubt reflecting the positive hedonic value of each of these groups to the child.

This process is strongly evident in the relative im- pact of different social interactions on the food prefer- ences of children. Surprisingly, despite the enormous opportunities in a family for exposing children to the foods eaten by the parents, parental preferences are poor predictors of child food preferences; in fact, they are no better predictors than the preferences of other adults. This suggests that the extent to which these sets of pref- erences are related has more to do with the wider cul- ture than with any specific food habits within the family. A child’s food likes and dislikes are much more likely to be associated with those of peers, especially specific friends, than those of its parents. Peers may also be as ef- fective as families at helping to overcome neophobia, since the food choices of both friends or well-known adults strongly influence a child’s food choices. The ul- timate impact of social facilitation of food choice is that the liking eventually becomes internalized. That is, foods chosen because others do so become liked for their own sensory properties.

The Cultural Context Dietary differences between cultures are almost always more pronounced than individual differences within a culture. The relatively limited amount of research that has been conducted on cross-cultural perceptions of sen- sory qualities finds fewer differences than are needed to explain the often markedly different preferences for foods. More plausibly, it is likely that differences in pref- erences reflect experiences with different foods. In addi- tion to facilitating liking through exposure and the action of social influences, cultures act to define what substances are considered foods.

Foods that are unfamiliar to a culture may initially be seen as entirely unsuitable for consumption, while cer- tain flavors may be regarded as inappropriate for specific foods. For example, bean paste is often used as a sweet filling in Japanese cakes, whereas in many Western coun- tries, beans are expected to inhabit savory, not sweet, products. Again, porridge is either sweet or savory, de- pending on your heritage. In other cases, because of dif- ferent histories of exposure, a preferred flavor in one


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culture may be perceived as unpleasant in another. The odor and flavor of lamb and mutton are highly liked in the West but rejected in the many parts of Asia that do not have the history of consuming sheep meat. Foods may of course be the subject of religious or cultural taboos, or even not be defined as food at all. In Western countries, we are unlikely to ever develop a taste for dog meat or snake blood.

The notion of culturally specific flavor principles has been proposed as a way of categorizing cultural differ- ences in cuisines. Flavor principles are unique combina- tions of specific ingredients used in a variety of foods within a culture. This combination provides a character- istic flavor that foods within the culture share, and iden- tifies them as originating from that culture. For example, a characteristic combination of ingredients in Japanese cooking is soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine) and dashi (a stock made from flakes of the bonito fish, which is high in umami taste). While Korea is geographically close to Japan, its flavor principle could not be less similar, with the intense flavors of garlic, chili, sesame, and soy dom- inating many dishes. Flavor principles not only define the national cuisine, they also perform a social role by act- ing as an expression of the individuality of the culture.

Flavor principles may help to provide a solution to the “omnivore’s paradox” and the consequent neophobic response that novelty can elicit, thus limiting the foods available for consumption within a culture. A familiar fla- vor can provide a safe context for new foods, thus maxi- mizing the breadth of the diet. On the individual level, recent findings suggest that a familiar sauce could in- crease the willingness of children to consume a novel food. A characteristic combination of flavorings may also provide variety and interest in diets dominated by bland staples such as corn or rice. Although a flavor principle might contain only a small set of characteristic season- ings, these can be combined in different ways. Moreover, what may appear to be a single ingredient or spice to an outsider may in fact have many subtle variations. Differ- ent chili varieties, for instance, vary considerably in the flavor and degree of heat that they impart to foods.

Increasingly, the food industry operates in a global setting. This is likely to mean that those foods that are purchased in your local supermarket are, or soon will be, also available on the other side of the world, perhaps within a culture whose cuisine is vastly different from your own. Whether this means that national flavor prin- ciples will ultimately be diluted or replaced is uncertain. Some evidence suggests they will not. Japanese urban populations have, for many years, enjoyed wide access to foods from other parts of the world, particularly Europe and the United States. Yet, while rice consumption has fallen and red meat and dairy food consumption has in- creased in recent years, there is little evidence that more traditional foods are disappearing. Moreover, Western food companies wishing to export to those cultures whose cuisines are substantially different are learning that in-

corporating aspects of the flavor principles of those cul- tures is essential for producing acceptable foods.

Food Choice: The Broader Context Although a food’s sensory properties may substantially determine what we like, they are only part of why we choose a particular food on a particular occasion. The determinants of our diet include factors that are both in- ternal and external to the individual. Food choices are in- fluenced by appetite, which in turn reflects when and what we last ate, and our overall state of physical and psy- chological health. In some extreme cases, these internal influences can render eating itself a pathological process, as in disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Even in nonpathological circumstances, though, choosing a high-fat or -carbohydrate food may have more to do with our mood than anything else.

Liking is also heavily dependent on context. At its simplest level, cultural practices will determine whether or not we eat cooked meat or toast for breakfast. The ex- tent to which either of these foods is acceptable will de- pend considerably on time of day. The same food can also vary in acceptability depending on where we experience it. Due to the influence of prior expectations, the same meal served in a restaurant is likely to be judged as more acceptable than if it is served in a student cafeteria.

Clearly, also, the reason why we first choose a food must be based on factors other than direct experience of, and therefore liking for, the sensory properties of the food. Food manufacturers and marketers rely on adver- tising and labeling to create a positive image for prod- ucts, and attempt to create high (but not unrealistic) expectations for the product’s sensory properties. If the food meets those expectations following purchase, then the consumer is likely to try the product again. Repeat consumption and the consequent associative and post- ingestive processes will then act to promote increased lik- ing for the product.

See also Anorexia, Bulimia; Appetite; Aversion to Food; Disgust; Sensation and the Senses; Taboos.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Bernstein, Ilene L. “Development of Taste Preferences.” In The

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Birch, Leann L., and D. W. Marlin. “I Don’t Like It; I Never Tried It: Effects of Exposure on Two-Year-Old Children’s Food Preferences.” Appetite 3 (1982): 353–360.

Birch, Leann L., Jennifer O. Fisher, and Karen Grimm- Thomas. “The Development of Children’s Eating Habits.” In Food Choice, Acceptance and Consumption, edited by Her- bert L. Meiselman and Hal J. H. MacFie, pp. 161–206. London: Blackie, 1996.

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edited by Herbert L. Meiselman and Hal J. H. MacFie, pp. 1–82. London: Blackie, 1996.

Davis, Clara M. “Self-Selection of Diet by Newly Weaned In- fants.” American Journal of Diseases of Children 36 (1928): 651–679.

Meiselman, Herbert L. “The Contextual Basis for Food Ac- ceptance, Food Choice and Food Intake: The Food, The Situation and The Individual.” In Food Choice, Acceptance and Consumption, edited by Herbert L. Meiselman and Hal J. H. MacFie, pp. 239–263. London: Blackie, 1996.

Mennella, Julie A., and Gary K. Beauchamp “The Ontogeny of Human Flavor Perception.” In Handbook of Perception and Cognition: Tasting and Smelling, edited by Gary K. Beau- champ and Linda M. Bartoshuk. San Diego, Calif.: Acad- emic Press, 1997.

Pliner, Patricia. “The Effects of Mere Exposure on Liking for Edible Substances.” Appetite 3 (1982): 283–290.

Pliner, Patricia, Marcie Pelchat, and M. Grabski “Reduction of Neophobia in Humans by Exposure to Novel Foods.” Ap- petite 20 (1993): 111–123.

Pliner, Patricia, and Marcia L. Pelchat. “Neophobia in Humans and The Special Status of Foods of Animal Origin.” Ap- petite 16 (1991): 205–218.

Pliner, Patricia and Catherine Stallberg-White “‘Pass the ketchup, please’: Familiar Flavors Increase Children’s Willingness to Taste Novel Foods.” Appetite 34 (2000): 95–103.

Pliner, Patricia, Paul Rozin, Myra Cooper, and George Woody. “Role of Specific Postingestional Effects and Medicinal Context in the Acquisition of Liking for Tastes.” Appetite 6 (1985): 243–252.

Prescott, John, and Graham A. Bell. “Cross-Cultural Determi- nants of Food Acceptability: Recent Research on Sensory Perceptions and Preferences.” Trends in Food Science and Technology 6 (1995): 201–205.

Rolls, Barbara J. “Sensory-Specific Satiety.” Nutrition Reviews 44 (1986): 93–101.

Rozin, Elisabeth. Ethnic Cuisine: The Flavor-Principle Cookbook. Brattleboro, Vt.: The Stephen Greene Press, 1983.

Rozin, Elisabeth, and Paul Rozin. “Culinary Themes and Vari- ations.” Natural History 90 (1981): 6–14.

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Rozin, Paul. “Human Food Selection: The Interaction of Biol- ogy, Culture and Individual Experience.” In The Psychobi- ology of Human Food Selection, edited by L. M. Barker, pp. 225–254. Westport, Conn.: AVI Publishing, 1982.

Rozin, Paul, and Theresa A. Vollmecke. “Food Likes and Dis- likes.” Annual Review of Nutrition 6 (1986): 433–456.

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John Prescott

ADDITIVES. Food additives are regulated sub- stances and therefore defined in law. Unfortunately, de- finitions vary among jurisdictions. A typical definition of a food additive may be: a substance the use of which in a food causes it to become a part of that food or to al- ter the characteristics of that food. A list of exceptions (Table 1) often follows because such a definition is vague and can include many substances not normally regarded as additives. Regulations are then required that control which additives can be added to which foods, and at what levels they can be added to those foods in which they are permitted.

In the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21— Food and Drugs (21CFR170.3), the following definition appears: “Food additives includes all substances not ex- empted by section 201(s) of the act, the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result, di- rectly or indirectly, either in their becoming a compo- nent of food or otherwise affecting the characteristics of food.”

The European Union (1994) defined a food additive as “any substance not normally consumed as a food in it- self and not normally used as a characteristic ingredient of food whether or not it has nutritive value, the inten- tional addition of which to food for a technological purpose in the manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packaging, transport or storage of such food results, or may be reasonably expected to result, in it or its by-products becoming directly or indirectly a compo- nent of such foods.”

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (a joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO] and World Health Organization [WHO] organi- zation established to develop uniformity of food stan- dards for international trade) has defined a food additive as “any substance not normally consumed as a food by itself and not normally used as a typical ingredient of the food, whether or not it has nutritive value, the intentional addition of which to food for a technological (including organoleptic) purpose in the manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packing, packaging, transport or holding of such food results, or may be reasonably ex- pected to result, (directly or indirectly) in it or its by- products becoming a component of or otherwise affecting the characteristics of such foods. The term does not include contaminants or substances added to food for maintaining or improving nutritional qualities” (Codex Alimentarius Commission, 1999).

In the Canadian Regulations, Part B, Food, Division 1, General, B.01.001, p. 16, of the Canadian Food and Drugs Act (Amendments 1999), “food additive” is defined as “any substance the use of which results, or may rea- sonably be expected to result, in it or its by-products be- coming a part of or affecting the characteristics of a food, but does not include (a) any nutritive material that is used, recognized, or commonly sold as an article or ingredient of food, (b) vitamins, mineral nutrients and amino acids,


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