Tuna packaging and Halloween fishcakes stand out at FOODEX 2021

Published on
March 18, 2021

At the FOODEX JAPAN 2021 trade show, held from 9 to 12 March in Chiba’s Makuhari Messe Hall, tuna packaging methods, Halloween themed fishcakes, and more were on display.

The show, which is not seafood specific, had just 17 exhibitors in the seafood category this year. Strict COVID-19 restrictions in Japan that include a restricted country list, PCR tests, and a quarantine period, all limited the amount of entrants.

Tokyo-based FTI Japan Co., Ltd. featured tuna loin packed by two special methods. For their long-life chilled product, they utilize a special “aging” plastic film that extends the product life from three days to seven days. By combining several high-performance materials, it is possible to draw out the amino acids that are the umami component of tuna, while preventing oxidative deterioration.

The company’s frozen product is treated with carbon monoxide (CO) gas and is vacuum-packed. This process is banned in the European Union, Canada, Singapore, and Japan, but not in the product’s target markets.

“I’m planning to sell it to US and other countries where it is legally allowed CO gas use,” FTI Japan Co. CEO and President Narumi Kentaro said. “The addition of CO gas is not legally permitted in Japan under the Food Sanitation Law. This is because consumers may misunderstand the freshness. Neither fresh nor frozen is permitted. The background of this regulation is that Japanese consumers have a culture of judging the color tone and distinguishing the freshness of raw seafood such as tuna.”

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires treated fish to be labelled as such, but the practice is still controversial, as it may mask decay. The carbon monoxide semi-permanently fixes the color to a bright red, so older fish that would normally show color change to dull brown remains bright. Yet, it can give a better visual presentation, and for a frozen product such as that offered by FTI, spoilage may be unlikely.

The company sells yellowfin tuna from Indonesia under the “Maguronesia” brand in multiple forms: block, slices, and saku. In Japan, the term “saku” means tuna cut into a uniformly shaped rectangular block, ready for slicing for sushi. The quality is maintained to Japanese standards at a HACCP certified plant.

Also at the show was Hiroshima-based fishcake maker Hinodesuisan Co., Ltd., promoting Halloween Kamaboko (Frozen Fish Cake) with an orange and black Jack-o’-lantern face, using natural colors. The product comes in a long stick of 125 grams pre-sliced into 30 pieces of 4 millimeters each, to be easily added to a Japanese box lunch. Halloween is a recent introduction in Japan and is being eagerly adopted as a commercial opportunity.  

Photo courtesy of FTI Japan Co.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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