Seafood, whether sourced from rivers or oceans, tastes best when consumed fresh. But not everyone can live close to a seafood market, nor are there other alternates for procuring fresh seafood. So, what’s the best possibility for getting fresh fish? It is getting frozen fish or seafood that travels from the source to your table in the right temperature-controlled environment.
Yes, the right temperature for freezing seafood is the deciding factor for its freshness. Seafood is a vital source of nutrients needed for health and wellness. According to scientific research studies, fish and shellfish are good for strong bones, brain development, healthy heart, and immune system. It is crucial to store them well to retain their nutritional value and freshness. There are several preservative methods, but temperature control is the most effective among all.
Keeping seafood in a temperature-controlled environment slows bacterial growth and helps maintain its quality. Bacteria are the primary cause of seafood spoilage as they grow and multiply in the flesh. When seafood gets stored between 5 to 60°C, it is a danger zone because it becomes the breeding ground for bacteria. Let us explore the temperature ranges that should be maintained right from sourcing, processing, storing, and transporting seafood.
Do you take into account who you are sourcing the seafood from? If not, then start now. Seafood should be procured only from approved and qualified vendors who know how to store the produce. It is a known fact that suppliers who adhere to good aquaculture practices supply quality seafood.
At this stage, using potable-water ice for preserving the seafood at chilled conditions between 0 to 4°C is recommended.
Processing is the next key step in ensuring the freshness of the seafood. The inspecting manager must be extra cautious about accepting only those items that are perfect for human consumption. Immediately after delivery, the raw fish, crab prawn, or any other seafood should be washed, cleaned, and stored in a cohesive temperature-controlled environment between 0 to 4°C and frozen in -18°C or below.
Storing finished product
Storage of seafood should always happen as per FIFO (First In First Out). It should be frozen at -18°C or below. In chilled storage, direct blowing of cold air to iced fish in crates should be avoided to prevent dehydration. For frozen storage, a suitable defrosting system and suitable arrangements to remove melted water from frost must be ensured. Temperature variation must be minimized during defrosting to ensure that product temperature does not rise above -18°C. Severe fluctuations in storage temperature should be avoided.
Transportation & distribution
The distribution procedure should also happen as per FIFO. While loading in vehicles, proper airflow between products and walls, roofs, and floors must be monitored. During transportation, vehicles must have temperature recording devices or data loggers.
Over the years, Indians have evolved in their eating habits. People from across the country have liked a variety of seafood, which was previously limited to coastal regions only. The young generation prefers ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat options in seafood due to its cooking convenience. At the retail store or supermarket, the chillers and freezers should maintain the temperature between 0 to 4°C, and frozen packed items should be stored at - 18°C & below.
It is only because of the efficient cold chain logistics providers that perishable items like seafood and meat remain fresh from sourcing to reaching the plate without losing their taste and nutrient values. Helping keep a temperature-controlled environment throughout provides the food industry a larger platform for growth and sustainability.
Kopanna Naidu is Corporate QA Manager at Snowman Logistics