Seafood Research Will Bring Healthier Lifestyle
The biggest research project ever sponsored by the EU in the seafood sector will help to meet the consumer demand for more healthy products.
With the support of 14.4 million euros of EU funding under the food quality and safety priority of the current Framework Funding programme (FP6), SEAFOODplus aims to satisfy the growing consumer demands for healthy, safe products that are produced using sustainable, environmentally friendly methods and processed using state of the art techniques. The project will encompass wild and farmed fish and shellfish, both of marine and freshwater origin.
“The strategic objective of SEAFOODplus is to reduce health problems and increase well-being among consumers”, says Dr Elizabeth Lund, Senior Research Scientist at the Institute of Food Research. “There is convincing evidence that seafood consumption is related to improved health and reduced risk of chronic diseases. We also have strong indications that regular seafood consumption could help to reduce gastrointestinal diseases, such as colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease, and may play a significant role in weight management, helping in the prevention of obesity among young adults.
More than 70 partners from 16 European states, among them both research facilities and small and medium-sized companies, are co-operating in sub-projects for SEAFOODplus. The research has been divided into six areas:
- Seafood and human nutrition - will examine the significance of seafood for human nutrition with regard to diminishing the increased incidence of major chronic diseases that are linked to nutrition. These include cardio-vascular diseases, cancer and inflammation of the intestine. For example, what role does seafood consumption play in a populations health status in the different European regions? Might it, for example, be possible to prevent obesity or osteoporosis via nutrition? The studies will mainly focus on young people, pregnant women and their children.
- Seafood and consumer behaviour and well-being - Which factors influence a consumers seafood consumption? How important is the role played by seafood in nutrition and what image does seafood have? What does a seafood product have to have for it to be accepted by the consumer? These factors will focus particularly on the health value of seafood. How can we best reach consumers and communicate more effectively with them? For the fish industry the results of these studies will offer important starting points for the development of new products and improved marketing strategies.
- Seafood safety - In spite of the indisputable value of seafood within human nutrition these foods also involve risks because seafood products may contain bacteria or viruses harmful to human health. This research is concerned with how these can be reduced or eliminated. The study will mainly focus on possible sources of product contamination by viruses and bacteria and contamination leading to production of biogenic amines. Where are the sensitive intersections that conceal particular dangers? How are risk and benefits balanced in these products?
- Seafood from source to consumer product - is concerned with the development of seafood products that are tailor-made for the needs and desires of the consumers, considering not only product quality and safety but also optimal health and nutritional value. For example, does it make sense, when certain valuable ingredients are lost during processing to add these at a further processing stage? Is seafood changing into functional food? This is an important aspect when considering the full utilization of the raw material. Not all parts of the fish have the same quality and composition. What can be compensated in order to get homogenous products?
- Seafood from aquaculture - will investigate the influence of feed composition on product quality, husbandry, various aquaculture systems and the physiology and genetic make-up of fishes. Much room will be given here to studies on how the fish are kept prior to slaughtering so that the quality of the fishes is maintained. Essentially, this pillar is about the search for an optimum balance that will unite the constraints of intensive farming with the demands of the consumers for healthy seafood products that are produced in ways that are ethically acceptable and with minimum impact on the environment.
- Traceability – This is concerned with creating confidence among consumers and an economy factor for companies. The implementation of functioning traceability systems from the live fish to the final ready-to-eat product is indispensable. It is the only way to trace the path of a product from the consumer to its origins. The SEAFOODplus researchers have named this concept fork to farm.
“The results of this project will have a lasting benefit to both consumers and the seafood industry”, says Paul Leeks, Project Director for FP6UK “Yet it seems fair to assume that it may not have been possible without the EU funding of more than 50 per cent towards the total costs of around 26million euros.
“The current Framework Programme (FP6) runs until 2006 and organisations wanting free, easy to access, information on the €19bn of funding available to support internationally collaborative R&D should log on to http://fp6uk.ost.gov.uk or call central telephone support on 0870 600 6080.”
Dave Sanders | alfa
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