Functional food is the name given to foods which, beyond their actual nutritional value, also have additional properties that are achieved via technological treatment. The aim is to have a positive influence on consumers’ health, their physical and mental well-being, or even to prevent disease. Some foods – and these certainly include fish and seafood – already meet such claims naturally.

A pilot project under the Operational Programme “Sustainable Development of the Fisheries Sector and Coastal Fishing Areas 2007-2013,” was developed between 2010 and 2013 by a team of specialists from the National Marine Fisheries Research Institute and Koszalin University of Technology. The objective was to find ways of using carp that would improve the economy of carp farming.

Cold chains are temperature controlled supply chains. That means that on their path from the producer to the consumer certain products have to be kept, transported and stored continuously under defined temperature conditions at each individual trade level. Cold chains guarantee the storage life of seafood products, linking up far-off regions of the world and thereby enabling global trade.

Fisheries and aquaculture already offer a huge selection of fish and seafood species but with the help of spices, herbs and other ingredients the choice can be greatly expanded. A dish only becomes unique and distinguishable with the right seasoning. Finely tuned and skilfully composed, spices whet the appetite, bring out a fish product’s own individual features, and make it more digestible.

Fish and seafood have a high nutritional value but are at the same time sensitive, perishable foods. Packaging protects the products from harm and contributes towards reducing losses during transport, storage or at the retailer’s. The functions that packaging has to fulfil are accordingly diverse. And requirements are constantly growing, for the materials used to produce it are today expected to be as sustainable and recyclable as possible.

The majority of fish traded today has already undergone some form of processing. The best-known product is the largely boneless fillet which can be prepared – whole or in portions – without any further effort, both time-saving and waste-free. The range of fish cuts on the international markets is, however, much broader, even if some of them are hardly known and rarely used for value adding.

Fish and seafood contain valuable proteins and fats, plus a lot of moisture. This makes them on the one hand valuable foods but on the other hand prone to rapid spoilage. The most important measure for stopping bacterial and enzymatic decomposition processes is to provide sufficient cooling within the value chains or fast freezing that will guarantee preservation of all the essential freshness parameters over several months.

Deep water rose shrimp (Parapenaeus longirostris) and giant red shrimp (Aristaomorpha foliacea) are the most valuable demersal species caught by the Italian trawl fisheries and are widely appreciated across Europe. The national production of both these species in 2015 was about 12,000 tonnes with a value of EUR200 million. Almost 80% of the catch comes from Sicilian fleets. Despite their economic importance and the fact that they are a high value product, there is still a widespread tendency to use chemical additives, particularly sulphiting agents, that are necessary to inhibit post-mortem melanosis (blackspots) of external tissues during storage.

Food must be free from metal contaminants and other foreign bodies that could harm consumers. All food producers are liable for their products and must carry out rigorous inspections to ensure that no risks arise from them. This responsibility results in an ongoing challenge for the producers because metallic impurities often enter the products during machine processing or packaging.

Refrigeration technology and ice enable low temperatures that are necessary for guaranteeing the quality and freshness of sensitive foods such as fish during transport, in the production process, during storage, and at the retailer’s. However, some of the refrigerants that have been used so far in refrigeration units damage the ozone layer and promote the greenhouse effect which is why refrigeration technology suppliers are now using more environmentally friendly technical solutions.

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