Math to innovate product development
Comprehensive mathematical models lie behind a newly developed predictive software tool designed to create healthier and tastier seafood products.
A recently finalized four-year research initiative has resulted in two new, comprehensive mathematical models that can predict the growth of microorganisms in lightly preserved seafood products such as smoked and marinated fish, brined shellfish and caviar.
The project “Developing seafood products with improved health value, food quality and food safety (LOW SALT)” within the Danish Green Development and Demonstration Program (GUDP) was launched to develop new predictive models and software tools. The models predict how the composition of seafood can be modified to achieve products with e.g. reduced salt content. The project was completed in early 2018 and was carried out in cooperation between the National Food Institute (DTU Food) and Royal Greenland Seafood A/S.
“The new predictive models raise the scientific level in our new product development, and enable us to develop new, healthier and tastier products much faster than before” Jan Soinjoki, Head of New product development, Royal Greenland A/S
During the four years several hundred samples of products have been produced and tested in the labs at the Technical University of Denmark, for the researchers to fully understand the behavior of each bacteria under a wealth of different storage temperatures and conditions – as well as the correlations between them.
Reducing salt – for health
Research shows that reducing salt intake lowers cardiovascular disease and death rates over the long term(2). In Denmark alone it is estimated that reducing salt intake by 3 g/day per person on average will result in annual savings of EUR 130-260 million in health care costs(2). Consequently, most European countries put focus on ways to reduce salt levels in food. In Scandinavia the “Nordic Keyhole label” is developed as a guidance to consumers to make healthier choices when shopping, eating out or when using recipes. The Nordic Keyhole marks products that meet specific requirements regarding fat, sugar, salt and dietary fiber content.
The practical challenges in simply reducing salt in lightly preserved seafood is that salt traditionally has been used to fight off potentially dangerous growth of both pathogenic microorganisms such as Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridium botulinum as well as spoilage microorganisms such as Pseudomonas and lactic acid bacteria. These are microorganisms that all food producers must have 100% under control as they, if allowed to grow, can pose a spoilage of the product or in the case of pathogenic microorganisms, a serious health threat to consumers.
The new predictive models developed by the National Food Institute (DTU) and Royal Greenland are endorsed by the EU legislation (EC 2073/2005) as well as by recommendations from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (www.foedevarestyrelsen.dk). The new thing is that it is now possible to determine food safety and shelf life of a new product composition already in the design phase. The reduction of salt can be compensated by addition of alternative preservatives and/or a reduction of pH.
Reducing salt – for taste
Besides the health benefits of reducing salt levels in smoked fish, caviar and brined shellfish new flavor profiles are possible. The natural flavors can now flourish and give consumers a much better eating experience.
“I am proud that we can now offer our consumers the same flavor experience, as we have ourselves, when we eat the prawns right after peeling – the taste is so fine and natural” Pernille Jacobsen, Product developer, Royal Greenland A/S.
(2) Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, Saltreduktion & Nøglehul