The proposal is primarily concerned with improving skills and productivity of the Australian seafood processing and retailing industry as a whole. The Food Safety Centre is, essentially, merely the proponent.
The Seafood CRC has identified chilled, pre-packaged, seafood presentations as a way of increasing industry profitability. Such products, by virtue of the greater handling and longer shelf-life, are potentially at higher risk of contamination with unacceptable levels of microbial pathogens requiring higher skills and technology for management of the risk. Coupled with rapid diagnostics technologies, predictive models and quantitative knowledge of the microbial ecology of seafoods form a strategic platform for expansion into new markets based on these value-added products. Such products are already well established in Europe.
Dr. Dalgaard is an international expert in seafood microbiology, being a long-term member of the National Food Institute (DTU Food) (formerly: Danish Institute for Fisheries Research). The Food Safety Centre has collaborated with Dr. Dalgaard on various predictive microbiology projects over the last 15 – 20 years but few have specifically involved seafood applications due to sources of funding within Australia. With our involvement in the Seafood CRC we consider that useful synergies will arise, particularly in the areas of histamine contamination of seafoods, and Listeria monocytogenes control, in long-shelf life, mildly-preserved fish products – a market that the Australian industry has to develop to increase profitability. This Master Class series will support the > $2million investment of the Australian seafood industry (through the CRC) into new retail and foodservice presentations with longer shelf life and employing novel processing/preservation technologies. It will provide a means to develop new products and processes, but with far less reliance on costly and time consuming challenge trials.
Dr. Paw Dalgaard of the Danish Technical University is internationally recognised for his work on microbial quality, spoilage and safety of fish. His research studies are made accessible to industry through internet software that can be used to predict the growth of bacteria of interest on seafood from measurements of temperature, pH. salt-in-water, organic acids and gaseous atmosphere in the case of modified atmosphere-packed seafood. Those computer models can be accessed, free-of-charge, and are known as the Seafood Spoilage and Safety Predictor (‘SSSP’; http://sssp.dtuaqua.dk/). They are widely used in Europe and internationally.
Dr. Dalgaard’s visit was an opportunity to deliver a number of master classes in Australia, and to showcase the newly developed Australian Oyster Refrigeration Index (an analogous tool to assess microbiological safety and quality of oysters) developed in Australia with Seafood CRC funding.
The visit occurred from 29 May to 10 June 2011, and involved visits and discussions with staff from various seafood business, research and regulatory organisations. Furthermore, Dr Dalgaard presented two master classes on predictive microbiology for seafood and one symposium on management of Listeria monocytogenes in ready to eat foods.
Overall, approximately 80 stakeholders in the Australian seafood industry interacted with Dr. Dalgaard, and a further 100 food safety managers in government, retail, consultants etc. attended lectures by Dr. Dalgaard at the Listeria management symposium.