Do we always smell and taste "correctly"?

The didactic plant labyrinth of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) focuses this year on the senses “smelling” and “tasting”. During the coming weekend examples from daily life will show visitors in how far we can still safely categorise scents and tastes. Poisonings, in particular in the case of children, prove time and again that e.g. household chemicals, which smell like raspberry soda, can easily become a risk. “An appealing smell and taste, maybe also the colour, can cause harm if we allow ourselves to be deceived by them”, says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. The presentation will take place at the BfR Smelling and Tasting Labyrinth at Diedersdorfer Weg 1 in Berlin-Marienfelde, on 20 and 21 August 2011, at 12 noon, 2 and 4 pm and is aimed at children and adults.

Humans and animals have very good senses, which protect them from daily hazards. For humans and animals to be able to correctly assess the possible risks but also the nice and pleasant impressions of life, they have extremely sensitive organs in or on the body. In this way they can see, hear, feel, touch and of course also smell and taste. 

All these senses act like biological measuring devices. They transmit signals and impressions to our brain with which we can learn and decide, for instance, whether we drive more quickly or slowly with our bike, warn more loudly or softly against obstacles or whether we have to grab more firmly or weakly with our hands, to cope with a dangerous situation. Some of our senses are very well equipped to identify hazards. Does that also apply to “smelling” and “tasting”, to safely recognise, for instance, whether something is edible or not? This will be tested by employees of BfR together with visitors to the BfR Smelling and Tasting Labyrinth in Berlin-Marienfelde on 20 and 21 August.

The BfR Smelling and Tasting Labyrinth is the third didactic plant labyrinth of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment since 2009. On a five hectare large field, plants and ways represent, seen from the air, ‘Schnuffi’, a piglet nosing a rose. An around 2.5 kilometre long way and various wrong ways lead through a jungle of maize, millet, amaranth and many aromatic plants. On the educational trail which leads through the labyrinth, visitors learn a lot about scents and aromas. How are they perceived? What role do they play for humans and the world of flora and fauna? How are scents and aromas assessed in terms of health?

Scent organs, smelling and tasting patches and a "stinkodrome" with agricultural odours invite visitors to nose very different scents and identify them. In the more than 1,000 m2 large entrance area kids can play and rollick about in a straw castle. During the weekends all creature comforts are offered here.

More information and directions on

About BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. BfR engages in own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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