New uses for fish by-products
Large fish processors convert fish by-products into fishmeal or fish oil, the sales of which barely turn a profit for the processors. Smaller or at-sea processors, who often see no profit at all, return the by-products to the ocean.

Researchers at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service are developing ways to increase the marketability of fish by-products.

One team of ARS researchers is exploring the uses of fish livers as dietary supplements. Americans rarely eat fish livers, but Peter J. Bechtel, a food technologist with ARS, said that oils found in the livers of fish of different species and those that live in different environments (e.g., warm water or cold water) contain different levels of omega-3 fatty acids. He explained that cold-water marine fish often have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than many species of warm-water marine fish and that these fish often contain more omega-3 fatty acids than freshwater fish.

His team members examined the protein and lipid contents of the livers of seven fish species found in Alaska. They learned that all of the livers had high levels of essential amino acids but had lipid contents that ranged from 3.3% to 50.3%. They said that knowing the differences between the fatty acid contents of the species could be useful in developing specific ingredients for use in human food or animal feed.

"Fish oil and protein supplements for humans can be made from high-fat livers," said Bechtel. "And low-fat livers, such as salmon, can be used as supplements for pets and livestock as well as humans."

Other researchers have established the effectiveness of using fish-derived gelatin films as barriers to help protect certain foods from unwanted moisture and oxygen. These thin, clear, edible coatings are made from gelatin extracted from the skins of fish or mammals (cattle and swine by-products).

"This suggests that the fish gelatins could be used to reduce water loss in refrigerated and frozen foods," said Roberto de Jesus Avena-Bustillos, a researcher from the University of California–Davis. "Covering a gel capsule–type medication with a thin coating of fish gelatin would likely slow down natural oxidation."

Scientists at ARS said that since gelatins made from fish have a lower gelling point (about 46–50°F) than those made from mammals (about 80–95°F), they are most useful for use in products such as frozen desserts.

Firmenich acquires Danisco’s flavors
Firmenich, Geneva, Switzerland, recently signed an agreement to acquire the flavor division of Danisco, Copenhagen, Denmark. Both companies also plan to form an exclusive partnership that uses the latest taste and texture technologies to deliver comprehensive flavor and food ingredient solutions to targeted segments of the market.

Firmenich will expand its product offering and market coverage, particularly in vanilla, ice cream, and beverage bases, while reinforcing its position in citrus, naturals, and dairy segments. It will also open an innovation center in France specifically designed to further develop its natural fragrance and flavor extracts.

The transaction is expected to be complete by the end of this month.

FDA issues warning letter
The Food and Drug Administration last month issued a warning letter to all food manufacturers reminding them of their legal responsibility to ensure that all ingredients used in their products are safe for human consumption. This was in response to the nationwide recall of pet foods made with wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate contaminated with melamine and the discovery that some of this pet food may have been mixed with feed for pigs and poultry meant for human consumption.

FDA on May 15 said that tests confirmed that the meat from pigs fed feed supplemented with the contaminated pet food is safe for human consumption. This prompted the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to allow pigs held on farms to be released and approved for processing.

FDA offers advice on how to ensure that food ingredients and food products are safe for human consumption at The warning letter is available at

FMI highlights new products
New products featuring a variety of flavors, textures, nutritional enhancements, and packaging were showcased last month at the Food Marketing Institute’s FMI Show in Chicago, Ill.

Bold flavors ruled in everything from chips to seasoning blends. Snyder’s of Hanover, Hanover, Pa., showcased its new MultiGrain Tortilla Strips in Jalapeño Red flavor. McCormick, Hunt Valley, Md., introduced several new items, including its McCormick Gourmet Collection® Sea Salts in French Grey Sea Salt, Sicilian Sea Salt, Mediterranean Spiced Sea Salt, and Asian Style Spiced Seas Salt; Grill Mates® Dry Seasoning Rubs in Cinnamon Chipotle Rub flavor; and Grill Mates Baja Citrus Marinade, a blend of citrus, garlic, chili pepper, and cilantro. And Thai Kitchen, Union City, Calif., offered Thai Kitchen’s Rice Noodles & Sauce Take-Out Box in Original Pad Thai, Thai Peanut, Ginger & Sweet Chili, Thai Basil & Chili, Tangy Sweet & Sour, and Garlic & Roasted Pepper versions.

Many of the beverage offerings featured ingredients to increase energy or improve health. Nature 101, Hayward, Calif., introduced Vitamin & Fiber Water, flavored water with several essential vitamins and dietary fiber. Maddie’s Beverage Co., Belmont, Calif., showcased Wateroos, a water beverage that has no sugar, artificial ingredients or sweeteners, or calories; it comes in Berry, Grape, and Apple flavors. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., St. Louis, Mo., a top producer of beer, is now broadening its portfolio beyond alcoholic beverages. Its 180 Blue with Acai is an energy drink that contains the juice of the acai berry. For people who suffer from celiac disease or who must follow a gluten-free or wheat-free diet, the company offers Redbridge, a lager brewed from sorghum and made without wheat or barley.

Novelty products promise to enliven any meal, even those for four-legged friends. Crunchkins, Rancho Mirage, Calif., showcased Crunch Cards, edible greeting cards, for dogs, that are made of flat rawhide panels imprinted with nontoxic ink. Getting children to drink their milk might be easier with Sipahh Straws, milk-flavoring straws from Jel Sert Co., West Chicago, Ill. The straws, which come in Chocolate, Strawberry, Banana, and Cookies & Cream flavors, are lined with tiny flavored beads that dissolve when the milk is sucked through them.

Test improves juice safety
A new test based on DNA sequencing and infrared spectroscopy could improve the safety and quality of fruit and vegetable juice products.

Food scientists from several universities combined DNA sequencing techniques with mid-infrared spectroscopy to rapidly and accurately identify Alicyclobacillus, a common bacterium found in apple, carrot, tomato, orange, and pear juices, tropical fruit juice, and juice blends. While the bacterium will not make humans sick, it does affect the flavor and result in spoilage.

One of the researchers, Mengshi Lin, an assistant professor of food science at the University of Missouri–Columbia, said that some of the testing methods currently used yield false negatives and this can complicate international trade. For example, he noted that Japan and other developed countries have zero tolerance for Alicyclobacillus in imported juices. A false negative could affect the timeliness of shipping and the reputation of the juice supplier.

What makes the newly developed test significant is that it identifies the organism in just a few hours rather than the 5–7 days it takes for traditional culturing methods.

Lin, who worked with researchers from Washington State University and Hashemite University in Jordan, said that juice processors monitor for the bacteria during processing and the final product stage and that if they find the bacteria at some point in the processing flow they can go back quickly and find the affected product.

Joint effort celebrates anniversary
To mark the 100th anniversary of the collaboration between Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Science and South China Agricultural Sciences, Penn State awarded Luo Shiming, the former president of the Chinese university, an honorary doctorate during Penn State’s commencement ceremonies on May 19.

"We are presenting Professor Luo with this award to acknowledge and celebrate the long history and promising future of U.S.–Chinese cooperation," said Deanna Behring, Director of International Programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences. "Under his leadership from 1995 to 2006, SCAU’s agricultural programs grew exponentially, which helped to re-energize Penn State’s research in soybeans, root biology, and food science."

The oldest bilateral international agreement in Penn State history and one of the oldest cooperative programs between a U.S. and Chinese university, the collaboration began in 1907 when Penn State professor George Groff visited Lingnan, China, to establish ties with SCAU. Groff made a return visit in the 1930s, and the two universities continued to exchange students and collaborate on research during the 1940s.

After the Communist Party rose to power in China after World War II, the partnership between the two universities was suspended for several decades. President Jimmy Carter re-established diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China in 1980, which allowed Penn State and SCAU to restore their collaboration.

Today, the universities are working on a variety of projects. One research program, funded by the McKnight Foundation, is aimed at developing improved soybean varieties that are adapted for growth in nutrient-deficient soils. This research could contribute to improving food security and fighting hunger for more than 700 million people in south China and for billions more who live on weathered soils throughout the tropics.

Other programs focus on enhancing food safety and improving food production practices.

by Karen Nachay,
Assistant Editor
[email protected]