A Pioneering Blind Sensory Panel in Tunisia

A group of young blind Tunisians seeks certification of its tasting panel program.
Feb. 6, 2021
Daniel Dawson

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An effort is under­way in Tunisia to cer­tify the first sen­sory analy­sis panel com­posed entirely of blind peo­ple.

The panel formed in the city of Sfax and was led by Mariem Gharsallaoui, a researcher at Tunisia’s Institut de l’Oliver.

We hope… to be the first sen­sory analy­sis panel made up of blind peo­ple and approved by the IOC.- Mariem Gharsallaoui, researcher, Institut de l’Oliver

The ani­ma­tion of a tast­ing panel for the blind is an excel­lent expe­ri­ence which requires a lot of effort and cre­ativ­ity to make these young peo­ple under­stand the com­po­si­tion of olive oil and the basic con­cepts of tast­ing,” Gharsallaoui told Olive Oil Times.

The great­est dif­fi­culty we have encoun­tered is to find a method to express the per­cep­tion of blind tasters of the dif­fer­ent attrib­utes (pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive), espe­cially since the use of the pro­file sheet of the International Olive Council (IOC) is not pos­si­ble for our tasters,” she added.

See Also: Olive Oil Education

To that end, Gharsallaoui and her col­leagues at the Institut de l’Oliver are in the process of devel­op­ing an alter­na­tive dig­i­tal method for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Once com­plete, they will seek the IOC approval.

We hope, after eval­u­a­tion and approval of the new dig­i­tal method of describ­ing the aro­matic pro­file by the International Olive Council, to be the first sen­sory analy­sis panel made up of blind peo­ple and approved by the IOC in the world,” she said.

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Mariem Gharsallaoui

The IOC did not respond when asked if it would approve the dig­i­tal method.

According to research from the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Standford University, the depri­va­tion of one sen­sory input within the brain leads to a series of events that allow the other senses to fill the unoc­cu­pied roles.

Gharsallaoui said she observed this within the sen­sory panel, not­ing that the par­tic­i­pants had a keen sense of smell and taste.

Compared to tast­ing pan­els com­posed of peo­ple with all five senses intact, I noticed that the senses of taste and smell are bet­ter devel­oped and that their olfac­tory mem­ory is very rich,” she said. Their descrip­tions of fla­vor pro­files are very detailed and they use spe­cific terms.”

Gharsallaoui added that lead­ing the tast­ing panel for young bling peo­ple had been one of her dreams.

From this expe­ri­ence, I learned that the hand­i­cap does not pre­vent [peo­ple] from excelling in any field,” she said.


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