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Electrons will make herring more delicious

Researchers from several Russian institutions have found a new way of treating fish preserves and minced fish which does not spoil the taste and substantially extend storage life.
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The authors of the new study have experimentally studied consequences of the treatment of fish preserves with an electron accelerator ILU-10. In the modern food industry, the preserves are not treated at all apart from salt and preserving agents, but all these admixtures slightly change the taste of fish. Hence, they are added to a small amount and the retention time is only ten days and very often such preserve spoil even faster.

The idea to treat the preserves with the ionizing irradiation appeared quite long times ago, but there were doubts whether this treatment would kill only the DNA of pollutant microbes or also destroy the cell walls of herring or any other fish. In that case, the taste of a fish should be changed as well.

After treating fish preserves at ILU-10 with exposure doses from 3 to 6 kilogreys, the scientists have reached the lowering microbiologic infection of preserves by 99.9 percent. Such treatment allows for increasing the storage life from 10 to 45 days without the addition of further preserve agents or salt. In the course of exposure, the energy of separate electron has been kept at the level of 5 megaelectron-volt which is sufficiently low to assure that the cell walls of herring are not destroyed.

Such a gentle regime of treatment represents the central problem of the new approach simultaneously. An electron with such low energy has a mean free path in biological tissues of maximally 2.5 cm meaning that only a thin layer of products can be treated so far. Nevertheless, it is enough for treating preserves.

The developers of this technique note that the products of radiolysis (the decomposition of microbes under irradiation) appearing under the exposure to electron flow do not differ in principle from the products of thermal treatment of preserved food. Nobody is scared of heating the food. Therefore, there is no occasion to be in fear of radiation-assisted «pasteurization» of preserves.

To create radioactive isotopes in herring, one needs to have exposure electrons with energy higher than ten megaelectron-volts, which is notably higher than those created by ILU-10 in the treatment cycle. Apropos, the new method has already given first encouraging results also in the treatment of minced meat.

The article on the new method is published in the Russian journal «Radiation and risk.»

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