US sensory analysis firm Arthur D. Little Inc. has created the first reduced fat ice cream containing omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) from fish oils. "For years, it has been established that there are significant health benefits associated with omega-3's. The challenge has been to find a way to incorporate them into people's diets without compromising taste," said Marv Rudolph, Ph. D., a Principal in Arthur D. Little'sTechnology & Innovation business. "The main reason that Americans do not consume adequate levels of the omega-3's is because they don't like the taste of fish products and are not interested in buying fish oil supplements." One of the challenges that the ADL team faced when first formulating the fish oil product was how to sustain the properties of the omega-3 fatty acids without sacrificing flavour. Omega-3's cannot be easily added to food products because they are extremely sensitive to heat, light and air. When exposed to heat, light or air, they generate an unsavoury fish flavour. ADL's solutions were to add the oils to a reduced fat ice cream, using its cold storage properties to reduce oxidation and prevent fish flavour, and to choose a flavour system that would mask any fishy notes generated during processing. "One of the most important factors that we focus on when developing functional foods, foods with a medical and/or health benefit, such as the fish oil ice cream, is taste. Consumers will not buy a product unless it tastes good - even if it is full of nutritious components," said Rudolph. To ensure the flavour quality of the fish oil ice cream, ADL used an objective method called Profile Attribute Analysis (PAA) which calls upon an expert panel to describe a set of defined flavor attributes, including balance, fullness, flavouring aromatics, fishy aromatics, sweet, sour, mouthfeel and aftertaste, to provide a complete description of the ice cream. The panel concluded that a vanilla/orange flavour combination worked well to minimise the smell and off flavours associated with the fish oil.