Food Loss and Waste in Fish Value Chains

Stabilization of raw materials turns the whole fish into valuable food

Contributed to FLW in Fish Value Chains by: Haizhou Wu and Ingrid Undeland


The demand for fish is steadily increasing in response to dietary recommendations, population growth and increased consumption of protein sources with low environmental footprints. We therefore need to convert more of each landed fish into food, as today only the fillet is used, i.e., 40-50% of the weight. By combating the large problem of fatty acid oxidation, our technology allows also filleting co-products remain in the food chain for conversion into high quality food protein ingredients.

About the technology

Based on the large focus on fillets in Northern Europe, ~50-70 % of the fish weight end up as co-products -in Sweden ~60,000 tonnes/year! Despite the facts that half the co-product weight is omega-3- and protein-rich muscle tissue, and that food grade techniques are available to recover such muscle, co-products still leave the Swedish food chain for production of low value fodder meal abroad. A major reason is that the co-products quickly get rancid as their valuable fatty acids oxidizes due to abundance of blood and pro-oxidative enzymes. Rancidity reduces taste, smell, colour and nutritional value. We have developed techniques to sort the co-products, to reduce blood and to introduce natural antioxidants; all hampering rancidity and microbial growth. The sorting allows e.g. heads, backbones and tails to be valorized separately. By then dipping these parts in chilled solutions with e.g. rosemary-derived antioxidants, rancidity is delayed from < 1 day to >12 days! As antioxidant solutions can be re-used up to 10 times, the technique is scalable and resource smart. The research fully targets seafood sustainability theme e.g. better raw material householding, sustainability and circularity.


How can research benefit users, companies and society?

Our scalable and low-cost technologies will have large societal impact. Firstly, it further lowers the climate footprint of seafood as the fishing/aquaculture steps are the most energy- and resource demanding. Thus, with more food is produced per ton of fish, the latter carries a lower burden. The technologies also allow industrial symbiosis and diversified product portfolios as high-quality minces and protein isolates can be produced further to fillets, also bridging seasonal production gaps. Last, consumers will have increased access to healthy food protein choices with advantages over red and green proteins based e.g., on richness in omega-3, vitamin D/B12, heme-iron and iodine.

UN's 17 sustainability goals (SDGs)

Our technologies aids food production from fish co-products that are currently lost from the food chain, thereby ensuring food security. This can help to mitigate hunger (SDG2) and as seafood products are also known to have health promoting advantages based e.g. on omega-3, vitamin D and heme-iron, SDG 3 is targeted. Also, the mentioned technologies address SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production and indeed SDG 14, about more sustainable handing of marine resources.

About the project

WaSeaBi is a four-year project that aims to optimise the utilisation of seafood side-streams by developing new methods to produce nutritious and tasty ingredients. The project brings together an interdisciplinary team of 13 partners from five European nations which include Technical University of Denmark, Food & Bio Cluster Denmark, Chalmers University of Technology, AZTI, EIT Food, Sweden Pelagic, Royal Greenland, Alfa Laval, Pescados Marcelino, Jeka Fish, Barna, Nutrition Sciences, Ghent University. The project receives funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (JU) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837726. The JU receives support from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the Bio Based Industries Consortium.


Publications about this study

1. Wu, H*., Axelsson, J., Kuhlin, M., Fristedt, R., & Undeland, I. (2023). Pilot-Scale Antioxidant Dipping of Herring (Clupea harengus) Co-products to Allow Their Upgrading to a High-Quality Mince for Food Production. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. 11(12), 4727-4737

2. Wu, H*., Richards, M. P., & Undeland, I. (2022). Lipid oxidation and antioxidant delivery systems in muscle food. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 21, 1275-1299, (IF 2021: 15.8; ranking: 3/143 in Food Science & Technology, Q1 and Top 2 % Journal in Journal Citation Reports).

3. Wu, H*., Forghani B, Abdollahi, M., & Undeland, I. (2022). Lipid oxidation in sorted herring (Clupea harengus) filleting co-products from two seasons and its relationship to composition. Food Chemistry, 373, 131523. (IF 2021: 9.2; ranking: 8/143 in Food Science & Technology, Q1 and Top 5 % Journal in Journal Citation Reports).

4. Wu, H*., Bak, K., Goran, G., & Tatiyaborworntham, N. (2022) Inhibitory mechanisms of polyphenols on heme proteins-mediated lipid oxidation: New insights and advances, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, (IF 2021: 11.2; ranking: 6/143 in Food Science & Technology, Q1 and Top 5 % Journal in Journal Citation Reports). (DOI: 10408398.2022.2146654)

5. Wu, H*., Forghani B, Abdollahi, M., & Undeland, I. (2022). Five cuts from herring (Clupea harengus): comparison of nutritional and chemical composition between co-product fractions and fillets. Food Chemistry: X. (IF 2021: 6.4; ranking: 11/72 in Chemistry, Applied, Q1 and Top 15 % Journal in Journal Citation Reports).

6. Wu, H*., Abdollahi, M., & Undeland, I. (2021). Effect of recovery technique, antioxidant addition and compositional features on lipid oxidation in protein enriched products from cod, salmon and herring backbones. Food Chemistry, 360, 129973. (IF 2021: 9.2; ranking: 8/143 in Food Science & Technology, Q1 and Top 5 % Journal in Journal Citation Reports).

7. Wu, H*., Sajib, M., & Undeland, I. (2021). Controlling hemoglobin-mediated lipid oxidation in herring (Clupea harengus) co-products via incubation or dipping in a recyclable antioxidant solution. Food Control, 125, 107963. (IF 2021: 6.7; ranking: 20/143 in Food Science & Technology, Q1 and Top 15 % Journal in Journal Citation Reports).

8. Wu, H*., Forghani, B., Sajib, M., & Undeland, I. (2021). A recyclable dipping strategy to stabilize herring (Clupea harengus) co-products during ice Storage. Food and Bioprocess Technology, 14(12), 2207-2218. (IF 2021: 5.6).

9.     Wu, H*., Ghirmai, S., & Undeland, I. (2020). Stabilization of herring (Clupea harengus) by-products against lipid oxidation by rinsing and incubation with antioxidant solutions. Food Chemistry, 316, 126337. (IF 2020: 7.51; ranking: 7/144 in Food Science & Technology, Q1 and Top 5 % Journal in Journal Citation Reports).


Contact Information

Haizhou Wu - College of Food Science and Technology, Huazhong Agricultural University, China. Mail: [email protected]

Ingrid Undeland - Department of Life–Food and Nutrition Science, Chalmers University of Technology, SE 412 96, Gothenburg, Sweden.