Pepsin flavour
May 13, 2005 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Where does "Pepsin" flavour come from?

My girlfriend and I both love Beeman's chewing gum and we've been trying to figure out what the heck "Pepsin" flavour is. It appears to be the same or similar to Winterfresh/Freshmint type of flavours in other gums but is stronger and better. I've used up all my Google karma on it and have a few semi-conflicting bits of info; I've heard that the Pepsin flavour comes from an enzyme extracted from pig or chicken stomachs and upon further searching I learned that Beeman's gum used to have a pig on the package however I've also been told that this is because you could "eat like a pig" and then settle your stomach with Beeman's. Anyone have any idea where the flavour really comes from or what it really is? Did the line about "eating like a pig" just come about when they realized an enzyme from a pig's gut was pretty gross?
posted by Cosine to Food & Drink (6 answers total)
It strikes me as very unlikely that the flavor of the gum comes from the pepsin. Pepsin is a digestive enzyme and yes, it is (or at least was) derived from the stomach of pigs and cows.
posted by kindall at 11:07 AM on May 13, 2005

Yeah, I've also heard that it no longer contains Pepsin, if so then what IS the flavour?
posted by Cosine at 11:20 AM on May 13, 2005

I seem to recall it said that Beeman's is a digestive aid. Perhaps in the long ago, it actually was made with pepsin.

on preview, like Cosine said
posted by Goofyy at 11:31 AM on May 13, 2005

In nature, pepsin is an enzyme found in the stomach to catalyze protein breakdown. It comes from a precursor molecule known as pepsinogen which is an inactive chemical secreted by the stomach's chief cells. This is to prevent the molecule from working outside of the stomach and causing harm to tissues. Once pepsinogen is secreted into the stomach cavity, its contact with hydrochloric acid brings about pepsin.

Pepsin in food is likely to come from chemical engineering rather than from nature. It is essentially a polypeptide (series of proteins strung together) making it able to be produced through recombinant technology.
posted by alex3005 at 11:57 AM on May 13, 2005

To add to alex3005's comment, pepsin probably has no particular flavor of its own. (Small correction: a polypeptide is a series of amino acids strung together, not proteins.) Most flavor molecules are much smaller than proteins, so the flavor of this gum is highly unlikely to come from the enzyme. (The only proteins with a flavor that I'm aware of are a couple of sweeteners, monellin and thaumatin.) If you want to look at chemical structures of some flavoring molecules, check here.

Chances are your gum is flavored with a mixture of several of these compounds, rather than some unique chemical entity. The FDA and analogous agencies in other countries have lists of flavoring compounds that are acceptable for food use, and it's vastly easier to work from those rather than try to persuade the Feds to authorize something new.
posted by Quietgal at 8:42 PM on May 13, 2005

I think the gum flavor is wintergreen.
posted by milkrate at 9:05 AM on May 14, 2005

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