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Q: Lead in food flavoring ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Lead in food flavoring
Category: Science
Asked by: jlc221-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 08 Nov 2002 06:50 PST
Expires: 08 Dec 2002 06:50 PST
Question ID: 102664
Has lead, the metal, ever been used as a food flavoring?

Request for Question Clarification by smudgy-ga on 08 Nov 2002 07:37 PST
Are you interested in whether the metal itself was used as a
flavoring, or would an example of a compound containing lead be
sufficient for your needs?

Clarification of Question by jlc221-ga on 08 Nov 2002 07:54 PST
My daughter, 12, has this question for science extra credit.  We need
to find out if lead (the metal) has ever been used in or as a food

Clarification of Question by jlc221-ga on 08 Nov 2002 07:55 PST
I could use an example of a compound as well as the answer if possible.
Subject: Re: Lead in food flavoring
Answered By: smudgy-ga on 08 Nov 2002 08:22 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
I believe the following answer will suffice for your needs. If this is
not the case, please request a clarification and I will do some
further digging.

The Romans used the compound lead acetate as an artifical sweetener.
(I have heard that lead acetate was the "first" artificial sweetener
but I cannot give a reference for this).

Lead acetate is called "sugar of lead" due to its sweetness. The
Romans used it to sweeten wine and to make a kind of sweet relish out
of grape pulp. By simply storing the wine or grape pulp in a leaden
vessel, the acid in the grapes converted some of the lead into lead
acetate, sweetening the food/drink. It is believed that this
contributed to many of the health problems seen in ancient Rome. See
the link below for more information.

If you need further information, by all means request a clarification!

Bill Kovarik, Ph.D
Environmental History Timeline, Ancient Civilizations
Radford University

Google search terms: "sugar of lead" (I remembered hearing about this
in Latin class a long time ago)
jlc221-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
I could not find ANYTHING relating to the answer I needed.  Your
answer is great.  Thanks a million.

Subject: Re: Lead in food flavoring
From: neilzero-ga on 14 Nov 2002 06:55 PST
I'm not sure, but I believe pure metallic lead has little or no taste.
Most lead compounds taste nasty, but lead dissolves in vinegar (the
active ingredient is acetic acid) and many foods have some acetic
acid. Lead acetate has a pleasant sweet taste (but is very poisonous)
so indirectly lead was once used as a flavoring.   Neil

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