Applied taste research is increasingly focusing on the relationship with diet and health, and understanding the role the sense of taste plays in encouraging or discouraging consumption. The concept of basic tastes dates as far back 3000 years, where perception dominated classification with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter consistently featuring on basic taste lists throughout history. Advances in molecular biology and the recent discovery of taste receptors and ligands has increased the basic taste list to include umami and fat taste. There is potential for a plethora of other new basic tastes pending the discovery of taste receptors and ligands. Due to the possibility for an ever-growing list of basic tastes it is pertinent to critically evaluate whether new tastes, including umami, are suitably positioned with the four classic basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, and bitter). The review critically examines the evidence that umami, and by inference other new tastes, fulfils the criteria for a basic taste, and proposes a subclass named ‘alimentary’ for tastes not meeting basic criteria.
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