October 1/Washington/National Fisheries Institute -- The possibility of fried seafood with significantly reduced fat may not be that far-fetched. Thanks to donations from the Seafood Industry Research Fund (SIRF), researchers at Oregon State University have been working on a project that drastically reduces the fat content in fried seafood using fish protein found in surimi.

Surimi, refined fish proteins that can be made from a variety of species, is popularly used for fried dish (fried surimi seafood) in Asian countries with a very low fat content (approximately 2%), which initially peaked Dr. Jae Park’s interest into further researching its fat blocking properties.

“After doing some initial tests with typical fried US products like chicken nuggets and French fries, we saw that the fried surimi product was consistently low in fat,” said Dr. Jae Park, professor at OSU’s Department of Food Science and Technology and OSU Seafood Research and Education Center (Astoria, Ore.). “We thought if it’s the fish protein that is minimizing the fat uptake, how can we use that on other fried seafood to get the same results?”

After two years of research, Park and his team have developed a fat blocker solution from surimi protein that has successfully reduced the fat content of fried shrimp.

“Typically when you fry chicken nuggets or fish, you get a fat content of about 16% and 10%, respectively,” explained researcher Angee Hunt. “When we fried the breaded shrimp by coating it with our fat blocker solution, the treated shrimp had 15-20%less fat compared to untreated shrimp.

The scientists believe that the fish protein creates a protective layer around the food to reduce the fat uptake and retain the moisture, without altering the taste or texture of the product.

“This fat blocker solution could potentially have a huge impact on the whole food industry,” Park said. “At a time when Americans need to eat more seafood and choose healthier fried seafood options, this could be an easier way for them to improve their diets while still allowing people to eat some of their favorites.”

The work is ongoing and in order to continue the research, Park and his team are currently in search of more funding to achieve their goal of fat reduction by 50% or more.