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Polyphosphates Analysis

New Polyphosphates Analysis

How do polyphosphates help fish processing



A phosphate is a salt of phosphoric acid; when a number of simple phosphate units are linked to form a more complex structure, this is known as a polyphosphate. Polyphosphates are naturally occurring in all forms of life. Polyphosphates may also include other elements, such as sodium, potassium and calcium to form compounds such as sodium polyphosphate (E452(i)), potassium polyphosphate (E542(ii)) and calcium polyphosphate (E542(iv) also 544).

Polyphosphates are legally permitted additives that are widely used to aid processing or to improve eating quality of many foods, particularly meat and fish products.

  • Phosphates that are naturally present in muscle tissue play an important role in rigor mortis of meat and fish
  • Adding polyphosphates to the seafood once caught proves very useful in increasing the quality and shelf life of the product as it improves their water-binding capacity
  • Polyphosphate treatment of fish before freezing often reduces the amount of thaw drip, that is the liquid released when frozen fish is thawed. Good quality fish, properly frozen and cold stored, normally develops little thaw drip. Poor quality fish when frozen and thawed may drip much more, and treatment will reduce the loss to some extent
  • The practical relevance of this treatment is a significant gain of weight caused by the retention/uptake of water and natural juice into the fish tissues. This practice is legal; however, the use of phosphates has to be declared


Know the Law


The European Commission has declared that polyphosphates (PPs) are additives and cannot be used as a processing aid in salted fish production EC Regulation 1333/2008 (Harrington, 2011). With the ever increasing demand for frozen fish from consumers in both developed and developing countries combined with fulfilling the EU's demand for imported fish and fishery products, and its growing dependence on imports due in part to reduction of home supply from European waters, Polyphosphates is going to become more prevalent in the vast majority of product supplied.

  • Freezing is the main processing method for fish for human consumption, accounting for 54 percent of total processed fish for human consumption (FAO, 2014)
  • Frozen fish for human consumption accounts for 25 percent of total fish production (FAO, 2014)
  • Frozen seafood market value worldwide from 2013 to 2020 (billion U.S. dollars) (Statista, 2016)

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