Air-dried cod, haddock and other stockfish producers experience losses of up to 40 % because of the uncontrolled drying process. The losses are mostly due to bacterial and fungal spoiling, but freezing damage, insect larvae and unreliable weather conditions also play a role. The EU-funded SAFETRACKFOOD (Development of a novel industrial fish drying and maturing process to secure seafood safety, traceability, and quality) initiative aimed to develop and test an environment-controlled indoor process for stockfish production. The researchers expected to reduce losses due to environmental exposure and bacterial infections, and also reduce production time by a factor of four. Researchers investigated the product specifications and legal requirements for stockfish production, and used the information to define a safe and hygienic process. They then compared weather data with fish weight loss and water content to identify the optimal environmental conditions to produce dried fish. SAFETRACKFOOD also identified the most common contaminating bacteria, as well as the volatile compounds associated with them. The researchers developed a set of new sensors to quickly identify stockfish contamination. They developed a data management system to store data, control the stockfish maturation process, and improve food quality and safety. From these advances, researchers designed and built a prototype indoor drying unit with a built-in biocontrol and monitoring system. Five prototypes were tested by industry partners, and SAFETRACKFOOD showed that their device reduced processing time from 4 months to 30 days. The advances pioneered by SAFETRACKFOOD will help stockfish producers improve food safety, reduce waste and improve their productivity overall.
Stockfish, SAFETRACKFOOD, fish drying, environment-controlled, food safety