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Seafood Business-11/99

Processing additive combats seafood spoilage, odor


 Sodium chlorite, already used as an anti-microbial agent to process red meat and poultry, can now be added to seafood-processing water or ice to help reduce odor and extend shelf life.

The use of “acidified solutions” of sodium chlorite for seafood processing was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the Aug 13 Federal Register.

The listing was in response to a petition filed last December by Bio-Cide International, a Norman, Okla.-based company that makes a proprietary form of sodium chlorite that it calls Keeper.

“The industry has never had an approved, effective anti-microbial agent [for seafood] that doesn’t have associated environmental concerns,” says Bio-Cide President Bob Vahlberg.

Studies of Keeper’s effectiveness- ranging from microbial reduction to shelf-life extension – are ongoing at the University of Florida. Treated shrimp, for example, has shown shelf-life gains of up to five days, Vahlberg says.

Salmon and trout have also been tested. “We know that after three days, treated salmon is still of fresh quality, with no odor, compared with untreated salmon” he says.

“ The difference after five to seven days is more dramatic.”

Vahlberg adds that Keeper also addresses food-safety concerns, since it reduces bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli.

Acidified sodium chlorite generates small amount of chlorine dioxide, a powerful anti-microbial agent. Sodium chlorite was first approved for food processing in 1996, says Robert L. Martin of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

No labeling requirements are necessary for processors, Martin adds, but raw seafood that comes into contact with sodium chlorite should be rinsed before consumption.

John Burgos of Puretech, Inc., a Massachusetts-based company that will distribute Keeper, estimates the product could cost customers $11 to $12 a day to treat the ice in a 10-ton ice machine.

Despite the federal green light, some industry observers are taking a wait-and-see attitude. “It might have a significant impact,” but no single element is a magic bullet, says Robert Price of the Sea Grant program at the University of California.

Bob Collette of the National Fisheries Institute agrees: “ The more tools that we have [to protect seafood], the better off we all are” – Rick Ramseyer


Printed with permission from Seafood Business Magazine


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