Mehdi Abdollahi, Ingrid Undeland and Bita Forghani

More of the catch to end up on the plate

Every year, more than five million tonnes of fish and shellfish are harvested from the seas in Europe. But too little end up as food. Now Chalmers, together with European partners, will develop new methods for utilizing more of the catch.
​Seafood is so nutritious that we preferably should eat it two to three times a week, according to the Swedish National Food Agency. But at the same time, the fishing is the most energy demanding step between the sea and our plates, and reports of stocks depletion are frequent.

“In worst case, only 300 tonnes out of a catch of one thousand tonnes end up on our plates. That is irresponsible,” says Ingrid Undeland, Professor at the division of Food and Nutrition Science at Chalmers Department of Biology and Biological Engineering.

New food ingredients

The new EU project WaSeaBi aims to find a remedy for this. The four-year project starts with a survey of where and why by-products are generated and losses occur, and has the final goal of producing four to six new nutritious food ingredients based on fractions that today are wasted or used as animal feed.

“Seafood has a good composition of amino acids that are essential and easily accessible to humans. Unfortunately, in the ongoing shift from red meat to more sustainable protein sources, the marine proteins have partially been forgotten. But with new methods and techniques, we can get so much more out of the catch than just fillets,” says Undeland.

Her research group has previously worked with techniques to extract proteins from process waters originating from herring marination and shrimp boiling (read more about the NoVAqua project). They have also worked with the so-called pH shift method to extract protein from the prime quality fish muscle that is situated too close to the back bone to be recovered during the filleting operation.

Separates the sidestream constituents

In the new EU project, the Chalmers researchers will investigate the logistics and methods needed to utilize more of the seafood raw materials. The side flows in the seafood industry are often a mixture of different constituents and contain a lot of blood and unsaturated fatty acids that quickly go rancid. Step one is therefore to separate the various constituents and then treat them with e.g. antioxidants so that they stay fresh long enough to allow them to be refined into food products.

“After that, it’s time to extract various exciting compounds from the raw materials. Here at Chalmers we will continue to work on the pH shift method and on so called flocculation techniques for capturing proteins from process water. With both methods, it is possible to obtain a protein mass that resembles fish mince. It then has numerous product possibilities.”

In the final step of the WaSeaBi project, processes will be built up in pilot scale at the sites of the participating companies, with the goal of producing new sustainable and nutritious food ingredients.

“This project is a significant step forward for the research that we have been conducting for several years. More of the seafood catch will soon end up on people's plates,” says Ingrid Undeland.

Facts: EU project WaSeaBi
The WaSeaBi project is a four-year, interdisciplinary project with the aim of better utilizing side streams in the seafood industry by developing new methods for producing food ingredients. The project consists of 13 partners from five European countries and has a budget of EUR 4 million. From Chalmers Professor Ingrid Undeland, Dr Mehdi Abdollahi and Dr Bita Forghani from Food and Nutrition Science participate. In addition to Chalmers, companies Scandic Pelagic Ellös and Alfa Laval Tumba are partners from Sweden.

Text: Ingela Roos
Photo: Martina Butorac

Page manager Published: Wed 05 Jun 2019.