Progress Update: WP2 Interview

Maria Leonor Nunes, SEAFOODTOMORROW WP2 Leader, Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR)

Welcome Maria! Work Package 2 focuses on sustainable seafood processing. Can you please tell us about the challenges his work addresses, and your main goals?

Our work aims to offer eco-innovative solutions for sustainable seafood processing based on strong proof of concepts and to ensure their full validation and demonstration of selected solutions in other Work Packages. We are developing two novel seafood products, namely fish pâté and smoked fish with reduced sodium content, and six nutritionally-adapted seafood products for specific population groups such as youth, pregnant women and seniors. As well as developing these products, we will implement strategies to optimise the safety of seafood products for consumers and to process industrial seafood more environmentally sustainable by reducing the energy and water use. 

Many of us know that too much salt in your diet is bad, but it tastes good, especially with seafood! How are you going to reduce the salt content while maintaining the flavour of the products? 

Indeed, excessive Na intake is associated with raised blood pressure – the leading risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and stroke, which in turn lead to high social and economic costs. Salt or sodium chloride (NaCl) is widely used during seafood preparation and processing, acting mainly as a preserving agent and as a flavour modifier or to improve the sensory attributes. The current main approaches for reducing the sodium content are based on reducing the sodium chloride added; replacing all or part of the NaCl by other chloride salts, flavouring, binding and preservative agents; or developing new processing techniques or process modifications. We aim to optimize and validate strategies for Na reduction in seafood by re-creating recipes in two models (fish pâté and smoked fish), using potassium chloride and diverse degrees of Na substitution, while maintaining the technological, sensorial and safety requirements of the seafood processing industry.

Reduced sodium Salmon paté and smoked salmon ©Tim Nielsen

SEAFOODTOMORROW aims to use seafood sustainably. How is this partnership addressing this? 

Seafood production and consumption over the last century has risen above 20.0 kilo per capita per year on a global average (over 22.0 kilo in Europe). Unfortunately, many of the fish species we prefer to eat do not come from sustainable fishing or fish farming. To move away from an unsustainable mode of consuming seafood, we are identifying opportunities for the use of currently undervalued species from fisheries and aquaculture. While not all species can be addressed, we are identifying low-cost sustainable species both from fisheries and aquaculture (e.g. horse mackerel, mackerel, blue whiting, carp, mussels, and seaweeds) in each country, as well as the potential intermediary products (fish bits, minces, and fillets among others), allowing low-cost fish products to play a greater role in achieving nutrition and food security of European citizens.

Can you explain why we are developing nutritionally-adapted seafood products for specific demographics? 

Most European consumers do not meet the dietary recommendations of eating two portions of fish per week and there are contrasts and gradients in seafood consumptions, preferences and demands across European countries, with lower intake among children, young adults and elderly people. Three specific population groups were selected because they have distinct needs and nutritional requirements (e.g. pregnant women require an adequate iodine intake during pregnancy) and we are developing products using sustainable fish species as well as other ingredients (e.g. macroalgae) to meet their needs.

How will these new products be tested and validated?

Professional cooking schools have been invited to create recipes based on the nutritionally-adapted products for the specific population groups. The products and recipes will be evaluated in a Recipe Challenge (read more below) and will be validated by industry representatives in terms of feasibility and economic potential.

What strategies will be used for removing contaminants from seafood, and how this will help the seafood industry, as well as end-users?

Three strategies will be optimized and validated at industrial level for the removal of contaminants from seafood. The first will be the reduction of norovirus contamination (NoV) in bivalve molluscs. The second strategy aims to improve the efficacy in reducing L. monocytogenes (a pathogenic bacteria) counts all over the storage period of fish products using listeriaphages. Finally, the third strategy intends to remove paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins from molluscs (mussels, clams, oysters or pectinids, depending on the natural contamination). The aim is that the best outputs will be trialled, optimised and validated in full-scale commercial systems in collaboration with an industrial partner. These three strategies will have a strong impact not only on the assurance of seafood safety but also on the confidence offered to the industrial sector and to the end-users.

How are the seafood processing methods we are working on more environmentally sustainable, more economically efficient for seafood processors and better for consumers?

Fish processing typically consumes large amounts of water and energy with significant environmental impact and economic costs. We are using novel technologies that reduce both the energy levels required during pasteurisation/sterilisation and drying (thermal solar energy, radio frequency, high-pressure processing and refractive window drying) and the water levels needed throughout cleaning activities (radio frequency and high-pressure processing), compared to traditional treatments. By reducing their energy expenses and water consumption without compromising the characteristics of the final product using these technologies, the seafood industry would be able to sell the final product at more affordable prices.


Amazing. Thank you very much for taking the time to tell us about your research within SEAFOODTOMORROW.

Page updated: 7th November 2018