Recent advances pave way for fish gelatine for food

By Stephen Daniells


demand for gelatine, coupled with consumer concerns over the mammalian
variety, may open the door for fish gelatine to fill the gap for food
formulators, says a new review.

gelatine (especially from warm water fish) reportedly possesses similar
characteristics to porcine gelatine and may thus be considered as an
alternative to mammalian gelatine for use in food products,”
wrote scientists from Universiti Sains Malaysia in the journal Food Hydrocolloids.

and utilization of fish gelatine not only satisfies the needs of
consumers, but also serves as a means to utilize some of the byproducts
of the fishing industry,”
they added.

Gelatine is a translucent colourless substance, created by prolonged boiling of animal skin, connective tissue or bones.

is most commonly used as a stabiliser, thickener, or texturiser in
foods such as ice cream, jams and yoghurt, and is also used to improve
the mouthfeel of various products.

But despite the functionality
of gelatine, recent food safety fears such as BSE in cattle and avian
‘flu in poultry have prompted consumers and marketers to look for
products containing no animal derivatives.

One of the major
problems for the industry has been convincing consumers that these
concerns are unfounded. Indeed, certain companies and
institutions claim to have conclusively proven that there is no link
between gelatine and BSE.

Furthermore, there is strong
evidence that gelatine has health-promoting properties. For example,
the natural protein gelatine contains amino acids glycine and proline
in a concentration that is around 10 to 20 times higher than in other

Potential of fish

The new
review, a timely state-of-play for the applicability of fish gelatine
in the food industry, states that fish gelatine shares many of the
functional characteristic of gelatine from pigs.

However, according to the Malaysian scientists, the product is hampered by current production levels.

current production of fish gelatine may not increase significantly, at
least in the foreseeable future, as the availability of raw material,
coupled with the relatively low yield will be limiting factors in fish
gelatine production,”
they wrote.

“However, though
fish gelatine will be unable to completely replace mammalian gelatine,
it is hopeful that one day, it might become a niche product offering
unique and competitive properties to other biopolymers, as well as
meeting the demand of global halal/kosher market,”
they added.

Processing considerations

reviewers raise questions over the scaling up of the processing
conditions required to produce the fish gelatine, while noting that “securing control of the extraction conditions during this process still pose a problem for processors.”

advent of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and HACCP (Hazard Analysis
and Critical Control Point) necessitate the need for detailed study to
standardise the purity of samples/raw material used.

these challenges, the reviewers see great potential for fish gelatine
in the food industry, particularly in niche but growing markets.

“The global demand for gelatin has been increasing over the years,” they wrote. “Recent
reports indicate the annual world output of gelatin is nearly 326,000
tons, with pig skin-derived gelatin accounting for the highest (46 per
cent) output, followed by bovine hides (29.4 per cent).

although gelatin has such a wide range of useful applications,
pessimism and strong concerns still persist among consumers with regard
to its usage. This is mainly due to religious sentiments (both Judaism
and Islam forbid the consumption of any pork-related products, while
Hindus do not consume cow-related products) as well as the enhanced and
stricter adherence to vegetarianism throughout the world,”
they added.

Source: Food Hydrocolloids (Elsevier)
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2008.07.002
“Fish gelatine: properties, chalenges, and prospects as an alternative to mammalian gelatines”
Authors: A.A. Karim, R. Bhat