With the „HappyFish” project, not only fish will be happier

From lake to table

Fish meat consumption in Hungary is well below the European average, and it would be good to know more about the quality of fish meat as well. A project, starting now and following factors influencing the quality of fish products all the way from the lake to the table, may offer a solution to both problems. The independent laboratory, university and other professional partners participating in the 1.5 billion HUF project will examine the waters, the sediments, the stress the fish undergo and processing technologies, they will develop new and cost-effective analytical methods, and limit values will be determined to form the foundation for legal regulation. The main objective of the project is to make sure that not only fish, but also people  become healthier.

While only 6 kilograms of fish per person is consumed annually in Hungary, the corresponding value in the European Union is 20 kilograms. What contributes to this is low consumer trust, which could be cause by the fact, among other things, that very little is known about the quality of Hungarian fish meat, unlike many other product groups (fruits and vegetables, pork, poultry).

This situation can be improved significantly by the project officially titled „Development of a new risk management model system in order to increase water and food safety in the fish product area”, HappyFish, in short. It was emphasized by representatives of the consortium members WESSLING Hungary Kft. (an independent laboratory and leader of the consortium), the Institute of Aquaculture and Environmental Safety of Szent István University, and its Department of Refrigeration and Livestocks' Products Technology, The Fishmarket Kft. and SKC Consulting Kft. at their project kickoff meeting: the tender is an important step not only in the area of food safety (both in Hungary and abroad), but it could also contribute to an increase in fish consumption, which plays an important role in maintaining health, thus generating favorable social and economic processes.

This is so because HappyFish will reveal in detail the factors influencing the quality of fish products from the lake to the table:

  • Examination of harmful compounds: Meat quality is fundamentally determined by the habitat of the fish, therefore, during the project, water and sediments will be analyzed thoroughly, paying special attention to compounds posing a risk from environmental safety and human health points of view, such as pesticides, drug residues and other organic and inorganic microcontaminants.
  • Biodetoxification: To deal with the risk factors (contaminants) identified, so-called biodetoxification solutions will be developed, so that they are degraded biologically, leaving no toxic or armful end products behind in the environment.
  • Measuring stress: State-of-the-art molecular biology methods are developed to measure the different stresses that fish undergo, the minimization of which is important not only because of animal welfare considerations, but also because it is an essential condition for producing good quality meat.
  • Examining the processing technology: In addition to production, the quality of the end product is greatly affected by the processing technology. A significant part of the project will focus on a more precise tracking and development of these processes (e.g., disinfection, changes in nutritional values).

The main objective: to describe the criteria for quality fish meat, and to determine the substances influencing fish meat quality from the lake to the table. And, as a final conclusion, to develop limit value recommendations – based on risk assessment and consumption models – that can serve as a basis for the legal regulation of fish products. Another important result of the project to be completed over three years is that analytical costs could be reduced by cheat and efficient testing, which would increase the market competitiveness of high quality products. An integral part of the project is the development of innovative (e.g., ready to cook, long shelf life) packaging forms.

The net total for the tender is 1 419 187 223 HUF, of which the net non-refundable grant is  1 095 243 937 HUF. The National Competitiveness and Excellence Program was announced by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office, and the non-refundable grant is provided by the Hungarian state. This financial framework can contribute significantly to an increase in the competitiveness of the sector, and can lay the foundation for an internationally recognized aquaculture and and a fish product line competence center, where teaching and research activities related to the sector can be continued by Szent István University, in close cooperation with the participating companies.

Further information:

Dr. Adrienn Micsinai Adrienn, consortium leader

Gábor Bordós, specialist