Now Chemistry Keeps Salty Taste Balanced In Smoked Fish

June 20, 1998

PASCO, Wash., June 19 -- People who love kippers for breakfast, smoked salmon on their bagels, and caviar on their canapés, should welcome news of a new technique that could help to assure these delicacies contain precisely the right amount of salt. Researchers at Eastern Oregon University, La Grande, report that a new technique offers fish processors a safer and more economical way to assess how much salt they should use in the drying or smoking process. Salt content is not only crucial to the way fish tastes, but also is an important safety factor, since salt prevents the growth of bacteria in the roe and in the adult fish. Researcher Todd M. Rogers described the new method here today at the Northwest Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

The researchers are using a machine--called a near infrared spectrophotometer--that analyzes the salt content of the fish to be processed while the fish are still alive. Traditionally, processors have had to kill the fish, grind up a portion of the meat or roe, and use a chemical method to measure salt content, thereby wasting part of the product. The spectrophotometer incorporates an optical-fiber probe that touches the scales of the living fish and records the volume of water and fat, which are known to be proportionate to salt content, in the meat or roe. Knowing the precise amount of salt already present in the fish, food processors can add the amount needed to meet safety standards and, at the same time, avoid sending overly salted products to the marketplace.

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A nonprofit organization with a membership of more than 155,000 chemists and chemical engineers as its members, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society

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