Campden BRI microbiologist Greg Jones, who is leading the project, said:
“This research will focus on whether existing standards for assessing shelf-life are overly cautious. When it comes to shelf-life, fish and seafood are renowned for being highly-perishable, but it’s still quite possible that current rejection thresholds for levels of microorganisms are set unrealistically low, leading to significant wastage and cost. We’ll be undertaking microbiological, chemical and sensory testing to see if reviewing these standards can achieve improved shelf-life without compromising product safety.”
The scientists are looking for fish and seafood producers, and retailers, to work with them on the project so that they can undertake investigations and analyses on a comprehensive range of products.
In 2011, WRAP estimated that 1.2% of fishery produce was wasted, with the cost to retailers alone of £12 million. Currently, the majority of retailers apply microbiological specifications, as indicators of quality, to the raw seafood (fish, prawns and shellfish) that they source from their suppliers. Feedback from producers suggests that the upper limits in these specifications are currently set too low to take account of the natural levels of microflora (in fish and seafood) and can potentially be exceeded even at the very start of shelf-life, despite the food being safe and organoleptically acceptable.
“This suggests that the natural flora of seafood may already be at a higher level than that permitted by the specifications. If the evidence justifies a review of these specifications, by correlating sensory data with plate counts, the benefits to producers and retailers will be considerable – allowing safe food to be stored for a longer time. Consequently, it will also reduce environmental and financial impacts through reduced waste.”
The research will begin in November and run for a year. It will involve suppliers and retailers from across the fish and seafood sector providing a range of products for testing. Any companies wanting to take part in the research should call Greg Jones on +44(0)1386 842143 or email him at email@example.com