Our researchers are actively involved in collaborative projects in such areas as food and water safety, brewing science, biotechnology and the development of new health-promoting and nutraceutical products.
Important aspects of fish handling and processing are being examined in the light of the need for high fish quality, greater output in processing, reduced energy costs and environmental considerations. Improvements to refrigeration practices, development of advanced techniques for drying and the mechanical deboning of fish flesh are examples of typical projects. There is considerable emphasis on utilizing non-traditional fish species, especially with respect to freezing for subsequent thawing and processing by filleting, drying, smoking, etc. Expertise can be provided in the design and operation of plant equipment such as dryers, freezers, and cold storage facilities.
The marine oils laboratory offers a unique expertise especially developed for the study of fats, oils and lipids of all types based on the application of modern chromatographic technology. Methods have been extended to include the especially difficult analyses of petroleum tainting in fish and shellfish from the natural background hydrocarbons. Flavour programs extend this capability to define the difference in oxidation susceptibility of different local fish species, such as mackerel, salmon and herring. Both natural and chemical autoxidants can be involved. These products and marine fats and fatty acids are valuable sources of omega-3 fatty acids currently of special interest in human nutrition. Their definition is required by a variety of agencies in the nutrition and clinical biochemistry areas. The objective is to promote the wider and well informed use of seafood products of all types.
Changes in texture and eating quality of various species of fish during frozen storage are being studied by physical, chemical and sensory methods. A study of the characteristics and effect of an enzyme system responsible for toughening of fish during frozen storage is in progress. The mechanisms of thermal gelation of fish protein are presently being investigated at the molecular level. Rapid methods for the objective assessment of seafood quality are being developed. Modes and patterns of postmortem decomposition are being examined for several fish species of commercial importance and a study has been initiated on the development of marine-based pharmaceutical products.
Activities relate to improved efficiency, product quality and yield in traditional fish processing operations. Studies are also underway on use of non-traditional species like mackerel, silver hake, herring and shark. Key investigations center around minced fish technology, new approaches to the salting and drying of fish, and the shelf life and product potential of non-traditional species. A new approach to microprocessor-based computerized control in the canning industry has been developed. Shelf-life extension has been investigated in both fresh and frozen fish by the use of improved packaging as well as preservative dips. Investigations concerning the manufacture of surimi based fish analogues from non-traditional species, mixed species and from previously frozen fish are underway.
Food rheology and texture
The Department of Food Science and Technology has one of the best equipped rheological laboratories in North America. Ongoing research includes measurement of fundamental rheological properties of food dispersions, emulsions, gels and cellular suspensions as well as assessment of textural properties of food systems. Examples of recent applications include emulsification and gelation of chemically modified plant proteins, flow behaviour of polysaccharide gums and textural properties of surimi. Special emphasis is given to the structural-functional relationships of food and facilities for the examination of microstructure and ultrastructure are available.
Thermal process science
The Department has an active research thrust in thermal process science. Present research interests include:
- heat transfer from steam, steam/air and water heating media for conventional and thin-profile flexible packages;
- computer data acquisition and control systems for retort operation and on-line correction of process deviations; and
- energy utilization of retorting systems including conventional steam, steam/air, and flame sterilizers.
In addition, the Canadian Institute of Fisheries Technology instructors participate in short courses on thermal processing for industry and educators.
An ongoing research program exists in various aspects of beverage science. Current interests include:
- research into the rheological and colloidal aspects of brewing yeast flocculation;
- effect of beta-glucan and arabinoxylan polymers on the brewing process;
- determination of diacetyl flavour thresholds in fruit juices;
- prediction of the growth of spoilage organisms in liquid foods; and
- pasteurization processes for beverages.