EIT Food News

How fresh is your prepacked fish really?

The SmartTags project has placed considerable efforts into exploring consumer needs and expectations when it comes to implementing Smart Tags solutions in food value chains. The project has been getting better understanding of what consumers consider added value enabled by Smart Tags. To be able to do this, we must put ourselves in scenarios that might be familiar with the consumer.

You are shopping in your local store and you intend to have fish for dinner. In the fish section there are variety of species on offer and you start browsing for what seems to be most fresh, but you struggle to valuate that. All the fish in the store is prepacked fillets and there is little information regarding how old or fresh the fish actually is, when it was caught or processed. The prepacked fish is only labelled by “use by” dates, as the regulation demands. You try to estimate the colour of the fillet through the packaging, but you can’t smell it and you can hardly feel the texture through the packaging. Moreover, since it is filleted, you can’t use the good freshness indicators of eyes nor colour of the gills.

Many of us are familiar with this scenario where the consumer has little or no indicators to estimate how fresh the prepacked fish really is, but there might be a solution around the corner. Methylamine compounds, particularly trimethylamine oxide (TMA-O), occur in tissues of marine organisms. With storage, that gets oxidised with help of microorganism to trimethylamine (TMA) which has been related to giving the typical fishy smell and to spoilage of the product.

But how can this be important to the consumer in the store? Well, in the SmartTag project we are looking into TMA indicators, that reacts to certain levels of TMA in the packaging and change colour. Not only change colour but direct the consumer to another homepage from the one that he gets directed to if the fish is fresh when the label is scanned by a consumer with a smartphone. Smart tags like this could support the consumer in making an informed decision when buying prepacked fish products.

The QR code is printed with an ink that changes colour when the level of TMA inside the packaging reaches a threshold. When scanning the QR code with your smart phone, you will therefore be directed to one of two webpages, depending on the freshness of the fish.

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