FISH PROCESSING : TRADITIONS AND INNOVATIONSStudents: Maria Olivia Widjaya, Manon Chancelier, Soraya Babaeitooski, Mücessem Keklik
The fish processing chain starts from the catching and finishes on the consumers’ plates. Let’s have a look at the intermediate steps and the quality aspect.
Half of the world’s seafood is caught or otherwise collected by small-scale fishermen operating millions of fishing crafts. The traditional methods have moved on to more efficient and innovative methods. It is the same for vessels. The term fishing vessel is used to distinguish fishery vessels engaged in catching operations. Vessels could have different size and shape according to their catching, preserving and processing method and technologies such as gear used for catching aquatic individuals, the general arrangement and deck layout.
Besides, quality begins “on board” or in farms, a risk factor that can negatively reflect on final product quality can be present at each ring of the fishery’s production and distribution chain of captured and cultured product, so that the application of a series of Good Manufacturing Practices have to be maintained during all the chain processing.
In general, wholesale fish markets are associated with various fish and fish products, including fresh, frozen, dried, smoked and live products. At some markets, the product may simply pass through in a matter of hours.
In Italy, there is one particular wholesale fish market called ‘Il Mercato Ittico di Chioggia’–The Chioggia wholesale fish market, that is principally operated for merchants and small/medium size producers and buyers, members of the public may not be able to participate in the auctions. This market is important on a national scale because of its strategic location in between the Adriatic sea and Venetian Lagoon, which permit diverse fishing techniques and an actual breeding farm for bivalve shellfish. Over the years this market has become specialized not only in the sale of fresh national products, but also in products which are specialities in foreign markets, thus ensuring that trade based on preserved fish, frozen and deep-frozen products which can be processed, transformed, packaged, smoked and dried, has developed at a rapid pace.
In order to guarantee the freshness and safety of the products during the whole process at the Chioggia wholesale fish market, they use styrofoam boxes and a lot of ice to keep the fish (Cf. Figure 2). The activity of chilling fish with natural ice is a long dated technique that has been utilized to preserve fish more than three thousand years ago. In Ancient Romans, they also used natural ice mixed with seaweed to keep the fish fresh. However, it was the development of mechanical refrigeration which made ice readily available for use in fresh fish preservation.
The use of styrofoam box and ice to keep the fish at Chioggia wholesale fish market
“Nowadys this market supllies 80% of the Italy’s fresh fish annually”
The halio-food industries, also known as “processors”, take their place after the wholesalers. They usually carry out the secondary processing of seafood products. What are the main traditional operations in the fish processing chain? After the arrival of fresh or frozen fish, the goods are calibrated, skinned and washed. They are then processed in different ways depending on the final products. It may include: skinning and gutting, fileting, shucking, cooking, smoking, preserving or canning. Finally, the products can again be placed in a cold store for a limited period of time before being transported to the point of sale by refrigerated trucks.
Why is their role so crucial? The preservation of perishable foods is one of the biggest challenges that industries face, and this is the case for seafood. What does preservation mean? Preservation concerns the maintenance of nutritional, organoleptic and functional properties. Even if heating techniques can kill many microorganisms, they are no longer attractive because of the damage they cause. This has contributed to the emergence of new technologies such as : high pressure processing, ultrasound, pulsed electric fields, pulsed light, cold plasma and ozone. Besides, nowadays, production lines can be fully mechanized. This shows that machines have become extremely efficient over time and can replace long hours of work. These innovations represent a major breakthrough in the field of industrial technologies.
Consumers have preferences regarding the quality characteristics of fish and seafood. The attributes most relevant in influencing consumers’ choices: fish characteristics, country of origin, production and preservation methods, product innovation, packaging and eco-labeling. Apart from these, freshness and quality, convenience, availability, low price and environment are the main features that make the consumer stand out in fish and seafood products. Most consumers prefer or seem to prefer wild fish over farmed fish, local fish over imported fish, fresh fish over frozen fish, and whole fish over processed fish. There is a range of products developed to meet consumer demand for ready-to-eat meals and an increase of products prepared simply and quickly such as ready-to-cook (e.g. fillets, steaks, etc). It offers the opportunity to buy and consume quickly. Not only that, the expectations of consumers in the past are no longer relevant today, they demand products that are environmentally friendly and respect animal welfare and without lots of ingredients. Nowadays, quality is multifactors (origin, safety, ethical production, nutritional characteristics, convenience, authenticity, aesthetic appearance, etc.). The quality of seafood products is being put to the test in the 21st century with the pollution of the seas. This leads to a very strong paradox. Seafood products are excellent for health and have high value nutritional compounds. But they contain more and more toxic compounds. Consumers especially those at risk (i.e. pregnant women, serious diseases, etc.) are therefore advised to limit their consumption of fishes that are susceptible to methylmercury contamination. Therefore the European Commission recommends a consumption of no more than 160g of tuna per week and no more than 100g per week of fish being large predators. Are consumers really informed about these risks? No information is provided on the packaging but they can be informed through reports available on the internet. Is this really enough?
“The seafood product at the retail market”
“Quality is referred to as a multifactorial combinaison” in the 21th century ”
However, as time goes by, in the future the consumer expectation will always be changing, that is how quality will always be present in the food sector and companies will have to face new quality challenges.
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