Article produced by Anastasia Lytou, and George-John Nychas from the Laboratory of Microbiology & Biotechnology of Foods, Dept. of Food Science & Human Nutrition, from the Agricultural University of Athens.
The issue of assessing the quality, safety and authenticity of seafood commodities is vital in recent years. Although it is constantly reviewed in the light of new scientific evidence, its implementation is not always efficient across the agri-food chain.
Due to food regulations, the quality and safety of seafood relies heavily on regulatory inspection and sampling regimes. The current Food Safety Management System is largely based on procedures that are used for the analysis of certain hazards which are considered to be the control measure of the production process. However, this testing is usually applied to the end-product, and it is often inadequate and/or too late.
Indeed, the end-product analysis provides only very limited information about the quality/safety status of food, since the limited number of samples analyzed could not be considered sufficient to guarantee the safety of a whole production batch. As safety and quality of the seafood products remains one of the main challenges of the agri-food industry and expected to be addressed in an environment of tremendous technological progress, where consumers’ lifestyles and preferences are in a constant state of flux, there is a need to proceed in the development of a modern food quality and safety management system. This new approach will be based on prevention rather than inspection, allowing the efficient control of food-related issues throughout the food supply chain.
To fulfil this, a wide range of chemical and microbiological analyses should be performed by using non-destructive methods (e.g., vibrational spectroscopy and surface chemistry sensors) to:
- overcome the limitations of conventional food microbiology, and
- achieve automatic monitoring of food processes in all stages of the food chain.
However, the main restriction of the above-mentioned approaches i.e., using rapid non-destructive methods, is related to the big amount of data derived from these analytical techniques. To address this issue, Information Technologies (IT), such as cloud computing and storage, big data, Internet of Things, mobile web in combination with barcodes and smartphones, should be used to:
- offer the possibility to track easily the processes in the production, storage, transportation, retail, and even consumers’ handling of foods, and
- tackle the important aspect of food quality (including safety) during processing.
Figure 1. Schematic representation of the implementation of non-invasive sensor technologies for seafood quality assessment in the aquaculture sector
Taking into considerations recent research developments in this field, the implementation of this alternative management system by Aquaculture farmers and producers could be beneficial for producing high-quality seafood while it could also provide significant assistance for making decisions about several issues of the production and processing procedures.