Gives New Meaning to Imitation Vanilla Flavoring

Gives New Meaning to Imitation Vanilla Flavoring

( – Since the rise of the obesity epidemic in the United States, most doctors have been vocal in their opposition to sugar. It contains a lot of calories but offers little in the way of nutrition. More recently, as food scientists have come up with ways to create sweetness in food without using sugar, we have enjoyed all kinds of flavors without ingesting too many calories.

Now, researchers have gone a step further, combining food science with environmentalism. On Tuesday, June 15, The Guardian reported an innovation turning plastic waste into vanilla flavoring. Using genetically engineered bacteria, researchers were able to convert a precursor of plastic into vanillin, a compound with various uses in the cosmetics, food, and pharmaceuticals industries.

The worldwide demand for vanillin currently far outstrips what natural vanilla beans can supply. At the moment, around 85% of vanillin must be synthesized in a lab using fossil fuels. This is the first time scientists have been able to upcycle waste plastic into a useful chemical.

This innovation looks like the perfect storm. Not only could it offer huge environmental benefits, but it might also cut out significant fiscal waste. For those lovers of real vanilla, will it taste the same?

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