Attempts To Use Seafood Flavor And Texture Attributes To Classify Fish

Due to a greatly expanded U.S. fishery, the American seafood marketplace contains a variety of new commercially harvested fish with little name familiarity, which has created a minor identity crisis in the industry and for the consumer. Although the National Marine Fisheries Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce (NMFS), the American Fisheries Society, and the International Congress of Zoology maintain scientific names of glossaries of common fish names, these are generally unsuited for use in market identification. To make matters worse, common names for fish species used in the United States contain little or no useful information for the consumer (139). As an example of the problem, some fish have many common names (as many as 5) from as many different locations, and many popular commercial fish have several common names, such king salmon which is also known as chinook, blackmouth, and spring salmon. Also, commonly used names in one region of the United States may be misleading in another, for example, the fish known as "snapper" along the Pacific coast is a species of rockfish (Sebastes spp.), not the acceptable Lutjanidae spp. from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean that the Food and Drug Administration has officially designated as snapper. In other cases, names may be unattractive or pejorative or may reflect ethnic slurs or epithets (eg, ratfish, hagfish, wolffish, jewfish, etc). As a result, consumers can learn little about the edibility characteristics of a product from its name, thus a large variety of seafoods remain effectively unavailable to them. Faced with a bewildering array of common names, it is not surprising that consumers confine their purchases to a few familiar items rather than deal with the unknown.

Because the American consumer was perceived as resisting the purchase of new seafoods that appeared in the marketplace because of a lack of information about what they taste like, NMFS launched a research project to determine the feasibility of developing a national nomenclature system that would group fish species according to their edibility characteristics (flavor and texture). It was felt that both processors and retailers could employ such a system to group together fish that share the same edibility characteristics so that consumers, both new and experi enced, would be able to consistently and knowledgeably select their seafood. The system could work much like our classification of wines in the United States (ie, Chablis, Burgundy, claret, etc). Each of these wine classifications can contain one or more specific grape varietals, for example, claret can be made from Cabernet sauvignon, Mer-lot, or both.

It is a common human trait to classify and group that which interests us. For example, we readily group foods based on ethnic origin (eg, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese); we even break down the cuisines of a single country (eg, French/Provencal, Chinese/Szechuan, American/ Southern, Mexican/"Tex-Mex"). The classification of seafoods is no exception. It is quite common to hear a buyer in the fish market ask, "What is this fish like for eating?" Questions of this type are not at all unreasonable considering the large number of fish species that crowd both Western and Asian marketplaces (more than 1,000 worldwide, 500 in the U.S. alone). Inevitably, the answers to such questions will involve one or more flavor attributes (eg, sweet, mild, strong, etc). Clearly, the flavor of a fish species is one of the most important criteria that the consumer exercises when he or she purchases seafood.

It should be clear that the various chemical compounds that impart characteristic flavors and odors to a particular species of fish are many and complex. Despite the efforts of scientists, certainly as detailed in this chapter, the relationships of specific chemical compounds and observed flavors and odors are yet to be completely understood. To date, the marketplace must ultimately rely on the consumer to determine what a fish "should be." However, to be "knowledgeable" about fish has, in recent years, become increasingly more difficult because of a large increase in the number of fish species and products finding their way into the marketplace (136). Demands on the consumer's discriminatory abilities will be increased as even more fish species are introduced into the marketplace, both in the United States and elsewhere. This increase is due to a variety of political, economic, social, and health reasons. Economic factors are perhaps the easiest to identify. In the past, fishermen, particularly those of developed countries, would keep only the most desirable fish, such as halibut, salmon, and cod, in the catch and return the less-desirable species, the so-called "by-catch," to the sea. However, with increased global demand for fishery products as well as improved (and sometimes costlier) fishing technology and processing methods, many species offish in the "by-catch" heretofore not always utilized are now harvested and processed into edible products.

To help resolve these problems of nomenclature, NMFS, in its role of providing technical and marketing assistance to the fishery industry, organized and coordinated a program to attempt to clarify existing marketing names and provide improved procedures for establishing a uniform seafood nomenclature. As part of this project, NMFS funded a study that eventually involved elements of the U.S. Army Research Laboratories at Natick, Massachusetts (NLABS); the University of Massachusetts; Arthur D. Little Co.; and NMFS laboratories in Gloucester, Massachusetts; Charleston, South Carolina; and Seattle, Washington. As envisioned by NMFS and its collaborators, may be responsible for the clam flavor profile in these freeze-dried extracts.

In processing the 5'-nucleotide can have a significant role in potentiating flavor. Hashida et al. (138) studied the application of 5'-nucleotides to canned seafoods. In canned short-necked clams (Venerupis semidecusata), oyster (Os-trea giges), and red crab (Acanthodes armatus) the flavor of the seafood was enhanced at the following levels: 0.04 or 0.08% Ribotide® (a 1:1 mixture of 5'-IMP • Na2 and 5'-GMP • Na2, Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd.) for short-necked clam and red crab meat. The 5'-nucleotides appeared to be somewhat stable to heating and storage. Canned red crab meat retained 77 to 88% of added nucleotides during storage for 28 days, and canned short-necked clams retained 52 to 61% after 189 days.

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