Individually quick freezing technology in the shrimp processing industry

Table of Contents

Freezing is considered, all over the world, one of the best methods for the long-term preservation of perishable foods. Freezing reduces perishable activities, chemical reactions, and microbial activity in the tissue, thus increasing the product’s shelf life. Next to fresh foods, frozen products attract high consumer acceptance in terms of sensory parameters such as appearance, texture, and flavor, as well as nutritional value.

The frozen seafood market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of around 7.5% between 2022 and 2028. Global trade statistics show that the Frozen Seafood market was valued at around USD 38.82 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 68.37 billion, by 2028.

The growing world markets for frozen seafood products, attract innovations in freezing techniques, shifting from bulk freezing of commodities to consumer-friendly and convenient, individually quick frozen (IQF), and value-added products. This article is intended to discuss the potential of individual quick freezing technology for the value addition of seafood.

Freezing methods

The freezing method is divided into two categories according to the product freezing time: slow and quick freezing. In the slow freezing method, the movement velocity of the freezing front is generally at a rate of 0.1-0.2 cm/h and it may take as long as 20 h for the items to be completely frozen. On the other hand, in the case of the quick freezing method, the freezing front moves at a rate as fast as 5 cm/h. 

The translocation of water from the interior to the exterior region of the cell is less during quick freezing, resulting in minimal changes to the native structure of the myofibrils. In addition, Quick freezing is an industrially important method of increasing the shelf life of perishable foods such as fishery products, by subjecting them to conditions of temperature low enough to prevent the oxidative, enzymatic, and microbial activities that are responsible for the changes in flavor and color of seafood.

Generally, for the quick-freezing method, the materials are exposed to a temperature of about -40°C and the freezing process is completed within 1-2 h. In the case of IQF Items, the freezing time could be as short as 3–20 min depending upon the equipment and temperature.

Slow and quick freezing of seafood products

Individual Quick Freezing (IQF)

It is a freezing method used in the food processing industry to freeze individually smaller pieces of food products like meat, poultry, seafood, shrimp, and small fish. Individual quick freezing technology works on the principle of cold air circulation, which flows from beneath the bedplate or transport belt with the help of fans. The cold airflow passes through the pieces of the product while the product is also advancing through the freezer towards the exit.

The important benefit of IQF technology is that this freezing process takes only a few minutes to freeze the product. The freezing time and temperature depend on the type of IQF freezer and the size, shape, and quality of the product.

The main advantages of “Individual Quick Freezing”:

  • The ice crystals formed are much smaller, therefore, causing much less damage to the myofibril structure or texture of the seafood.
  • The freezing time is much shorter, less time is allowed for the diffusion of salts and the separation of water in the form of ice.
  • The product is quickly frozen below the temperature, at which bacterial, mold, and yeast growth occur, thus preventing the decomposition of seafood during processing.
  • The inherent speed and better output and hence, higher capacity for industrial freezing plants with the resultant cost reduction.

“Individual Quick Freezing” products have the following advantages over other preserved seafood:

  1. Best freshness, taste and aroma
  2. Better color and appearance
  3. Higher nutritional value
  4. Require less time for cooking
  5. Greater convenience in handling and preparation
  6. More commercial value, notably during the off-season
  7. More hygienic than fresh or dried foods

Shrimp processors strive for maximum freezing efficiency and the best product quality. After all, customers have increasingly higher demands on the quality and shelf life of products.

IQF technology is a method in which the internal temperature of the product passes through the critical zone in 2 hours or less. By increasing the flow of cold air over the shrimp, as in a tunnel blast freezer, the removal of heat from the shrimp is accelerated, and quick freezing can be attained.

Process flow chart of IQF shrimp product.

To answer the customer’s needs, evidence shows that the best method for producing supreme frozen shrimp is IQF technology. The IQF freezer prevents the dehydration and fading of the product’s natural taste by preventing the formation of large ice crystals inside the shrimp cells.

Importance of IQF for shrimp processing

  • Maintaining product quality and nutritional value
  • No dehydration
  • Minimum weight loss
  • Long storage life
  • Efficient freezing process

References

Venugopal, V. (2005). Seafood processing: adding value through quick freezing, retortable packaging and cook-chilling. CRC press.

Pruthi, J. S. (1999). Quick freezing preservation of foods: foods of plant origin (Vol. 2). Allied Publishers.

Kanduri, L., & Eckhardt, R. A. (2008). Food safety in shrimp processing: a handbook for shrimp processors, importers, exporters and retailers. John Wiley & Sons.

Granata, L. A., Flick Jr, G. J., & Martin, R. E. (Eds.). (2012). The seafood industry: species, products, processing, and safety. John Wiley & Sons.

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