In the seafood industry, food preservation is a high priority.
This is most apparent in Hawaiʻi, where seafood – and fresh fish in particular – is prized and incorporated into popular local and ethnic dishes, such as poke and sushi, where more fish is consumed per capita than on the Mainland.
For an industry whose businesses rely on new and better ways to preserve the quality and economic value of their product over an extended period of time, Soojin Jun, Kacie Ho, and Yong Li of the Dept. of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences may have a solution. They've developed a proprietary supercooling technology that can preserve perishable materials at below-freezing temperatures, without the formation of ice crystals.
“We have been testing the supercooling process on a fresh yellowfin tuna (ahi) fillet, and so far, the fish has been preserved for 10 days without any deterioration or compromise in quality,” says Soojin.
The researchers have procured a “Novel Food and Innovative Manufacturing Technologies” grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop and validate their technology, which utilizes electric and magnetic fields. They also hope to prove the system can be scaled-up to a larger storing dimension, and keep food materials fresh in a supercooled state throughout the food supply chain (from production to consumption) to maximize their economic value.
“Freshly caught fish is generally put on ice while at sea, and must be consumed immediately, or preserved in order to reduce the risk spoilage,” says Soojin. “Frozen fish can be stored longer, but texture and overall quality is diminished by the freezing/thawing processes. Supercooling involves chilling of fish below a phase transition temperature in a balanced state, leading to prevention of their cellular activity.”
He adds, “This has the potential to be a radically new food preservation method for consumers and the commercial food industries. Food could be maintained in their natural state with the same taste, texture, nutrition, and moisture content they had before being supercooled.”
Read more about this HNFAS research project, Electric and Magnetic Field-Based Supercooling Technology to Ensure the Freshness in the Food Supply Chain.