A review of modified atmosphere packaging of fish and fishery products – significance of microbial growth, activities and safety


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Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) extends shelf-life of most fishery products by inhibiting bacterial growth and oxidative reactions. The achievable extension of shelf-life depends on species, fat content, initial microbial population, gas mixture, the ratio of gas volume to product volume, and most importantly, storage temperature. The shelf-life of fishery products is usually limited by microbial activity, although for some fatty fishes or at superchilled storage, it can be limited by nonmicrobial activity. Packaging of fishery products under modified atmospheres (MA) increases shelf-life compared with those packaged under air, but confers little or no additional shelf-life increase compared with vacuum packaging. The specific spoilage organism (SSO) of MA packaged cod at 0 °C has been found to be Photobacterium phosphoreum. Whether or not this bacterium is the general SSO for all marine temperate fishes at different storage temperatures and under various CO2/N2/O2 mixtures needs to be resolved. Without proper control of storage temperature, the benefits of MAP may be lost. Higher temperatures inevitably lead to less dissolved CO2 in the product and consequently loss of inhibitory effect, which may result in higher microbial and enzymatic activity, and uncertainties concerning the microbial safety, as food-borne pathogens might be present in the product.