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The táami berry was first discovered in the early 1700s in West Africa by French explorer Reynaud Des Marchais. Traveling extensively around the west coast of Africa under the services of the King of France, Des Marchais discovered and documented a plethora of new flora, fauna, and indigenous groups of people.
During an excursion to the region of West Africa that modern day Ghana currently occupies, Des Marchais came across a village in which the native diet consisted of basic foods such as sour soups and porridges, sour corn bread, sour wine and fermented palm beer. To an outsider like Des Marchais, the selection was dismal and extremely unappetizing. After some time, he noticed the villagers eating small red berries before each meal. Upon trying one of these berries, he discovered that the villagers’ foods were transformed to taste deliciously sweet and bursting with flavor. The berry, known as táami by village natives, had been discovered.
By the middle of the 19th century, the plant and its berries were named Synsepalum dulcificum by the scientific community and were determined to be part of the Sapotaceae family. Then, in 1852, Dr. W. F. Daniell, a botanist stationed at an outpost near the village that Des Marchais had discovered over a century earlier, published an article in the Pharmaceutical Journal, Vol. Xl.
In his article, he dubbed the fruit as the “Miraculous Berry”. It wasn’t long before word had spread about the Miraculous Berry and the remarkable effects that it has one’s taste. Entrepreneurs at the time quickly realized the inherent potential for this fruit in terms of its commercial viability. It was many decades, however, before the taami berry would be introduced to those outside of West Africa.
Because the berries are highly perishable, they last only a few days after they are picked. With methods available at that time, shipping the berries was impossible, and attempts to cultivate them elsewhere were unsuccessful. Therefore, the benefits of táami berry would remain a secret until technology could accommodate its delicate character. During the past 150-plus years, millions of dollars and countless hours of research have gone into the development of the Miraculous Berry (which became known simply as Miracle Fruit).
Finally, in the early 20th century, a U.S. Department of Agriculture botanist named David Fairchild managed to bring samples of táami berry from Ghana to the U.S. for research. In the following decades, a significant amount of progress would be made in the study of the berry and the scientific reasons behind its remarkable properties.
In 1968, Florida State University biology professor Lloyd Beidler was able to isolate the taami berry’s active protein. The protein would become known as “Miraculin.”
It seems logical to assume that such an amazing product should have quickly hit mainstream culture, weaving its way into the everyday diets of Americans as an alternative to sugar. It almost did.
In the 1970s, an entrepreneur named Robert Harvey recognized the potential health benefits of the táami berry and founded the Miralin Company to grow the berry in the Caribbean, extract Miraculin in laboratories in Massachusetts, and market it across the United States.
Numerous studies conducted by Miralin and others, as well as centuries of anecdotal evidence out of West Africa, unequivocally found the product to be entirely safe. Additional research found one-sided positive responses from both the diabetic community and playground children alike.
Says Harvey, “In market testing, diabetics thought our product, as the name implies, was a miracle.” Other studies, conducted by Harvard graduate students, tested young schoolchildren’s responses by comparing fruit popsicles with táami berry to similar popsicles that had been sweetened with sugar. The children overwhelmingly preferred the táami berry popsicles.
With billions of dollars firmly behind it from investors like Barclays Bank, Reynolds Metals and Prudential, Miralin was all set to launch their new product in 1974. Just days before the product was supposed to hit market, the US Food and Drug Administration unexpectedly pulled the carpet from under Miralin. By reclassifying the product as a food additive, which would require several more years of testing, the FDA effectively issued a death warrant for Miralin. The project could not continue to be funded during the economic woes of 1974, and the company folded shortly thereafter.
But why the sudden change of heart? According to Harvey, legal advice and good relations with the FDA had led him to believe that the product would be considered “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). The reclassification seemingly came out of nowhere.
“I was in shock,” said Harvey. “We were on very good terms with the FDA and enjoyed their full support. There was no sign of any problem. Without any opportunity to know what the concern was and who raised it, and how to respond to it – they just banned the product.”
Leading up to the FDA’s decision to reclassify the product, a number of peculiar and frightening things began to happen. Harvey spotted mysterious figures taking photographs of Miralin’s headquarters, and later, an unmarked car followed him home. Just before the reclassification, the headquarters were broken into and all their files were stolen. It was clear that someone had been threatened by Miralin’s new product and took action to stop it in its tracks. To this day, the case remains unsolved and táami berry is largely unknown to the general public despite its immense potential.
In Japan, táami berry has begun to emerge as a successful product, primarily targeting dieters looking to satisfy their sweet tooth with low-calorie desserts. In the United States also,táami berry is beginning to resurface as diabetics, chemotherapy patients struggling with taste loss, dieters, and foodies, among others, are adopting the product on a wider scale.
With your help, we can continue to build momentum for this amazing miracle berry and begin to realize its potential to transform lives in America one flavor at a time.
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