In all areas, Hungary's first comprehensive survey of fish pond contamination, organic and inorganic pollutants in fish, the effects of processing and transport, and microbiological risks has produced positive results. The results of the HappyFish project, which is nearing its end, were reported by researchers of Szent István University and the experts of WESSLING Hungary Kft.
Happy fish - satisfied consumer
This project shows that there is innovation in the fish sector, and there is huge potential in our most important fish, the carp! - said Dr Béla Urbányi, head of department at Szent István University, at a conference held on 3 October on the Environmental and Food Safety Results of the HappyFish project on Carp Products, at the Knowledge Transfer Center of Szent István University in Gödöllő.
To date, there has been no comprehensive analysis of fish meat quality, but consistent, standard quality is an extremely important requirement for increasing fish consumption - added the university professor.
Collaborative research between the private sector and universities, with nearly HUF 1.5 billion in R&D support, has produced extremely positive, reassuring results in every area, and the project's curve has paved the way for fish to get from the lake to the table - emphasised the President of Szent István University (Hungarian abbreviation: ‘SZIE’), Dr László Palkovics and the Managing Director of the independent laboratory of WESSING Hungary Kft., Dr László Zanathy.
But why are the fish happy and why can the consumers be satisfied? Here are the key steps and results of the project!
The lake - environmental safety studies
Almost 700 compounds have been analysed in the habitats of the fish, i.e. the water and sediment of the fish ponds, and microbiological studies have also been carried out - said associate professor of SZIE, Dr Sándor Szoboszlay.
When testing fish ponds, the combined levels of medical substances and pesticides did not even exceed the limits for drinking water, and there were very few compounds that actually exceeded the limit of detection. Sándor Szoboszlay said that ecotoxicity tests for adverse biological effects were also positive and that the lowest micronutrient values in surface ponds were measured by Wessling experts.
Microbiological values, both in terms of environmental safety and human health, remained below the dangerous level and did not detect antibiotic-resistant bacteria either - the associate professor continued, but pointed out that the presence of glyphosate (although well below its limit) was noticed in general, which indicates that limiting the widespread use of herbicides may be worth considering. It is also recommended to supplement the limit values for surface waters and to continue monitoring fish ponds.
The fish - food safety values
Mercury, lead, cadmium - the results of Hungarian freshwater fish are far below the limit values for heavy metals in the European comparison - said the project manager of HappyFish and employee of WESSLING Hungary Kft., Dr Adrienn Micsinai. Only 21 out of the 420 pesticides tested were detected in the fish, and only one of the nearly 150 medical substance residues tested was detected, but these compounds were only detected around the detection limit. From a microbiological point of view, the fish tested were pathogen-free.
Processing - feel free to smoke!
Dean and associate professor of the SZIE Faculty of Food Science, Dr László Friedrich, said that using the so-called ‘electronic tongue and nose’, the individual samples proved to be very distinguishable in terms of taste and smell, both from the time of collection and the place of origin.
He pointed out that while arsenic was well below the limits set for other foods, carp is rich in selenium, which is very good news, as this element has a very positive effect on our nervous system!
Fish processing has much better results with vertical bleeding, and during transport, attention must be paid to the production of stress hormones because they can degrade the quality of the fish - emphasised a specialist who also talked about smoking: this method, which has been developed for fish, has a particularly good organoleptic and microbiological effect, and fortunately the levels of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) produced at that time also did not reach the limit.
The table - consumer research
Where do people get their carp from? How much do they consume? How is it processed? Who is considered an ‘extreme’ carp consumer? These questions were answered by the SKC survey, which was conducted jointly with SZIE. Dr Gyula Kasza, a distinguished professor at Szent István University, presented a representative three-phase consumer survey, which included surveys of the general population and people who consume carp more frequently, as well as monitoring household habits.
In Hungary, one person consumes an average of 2.5 kilograms of carp a year, but according to the answers, this number would probably increase if there were no bones in the meat.
Men eat more carp, especially anglers, and among them those over 40 (they is a group that consumes an average of 26.8 kg per person per year) - this group could even be at risk of over-consumption of carp, but because virtually no harmful substances were found in the fish during the research, they have no cause for concern.
However, when preparing fish, everyone should pay attention to proper storage, proper hygiene, heat treatment and avoidance of cross-contamination - emphasised Dr Gyula Kasza. *
The extensive research of HappyFish is promising in many areas: domestic freshwater fish are safe and healthy to consume in every respect.
The goal: 600,000 certified anglers!
Aquaculture has many other important functions besides food production. It plays an important environmental role in the protection of water resources, habitat creation and water management. Compared to other protein-producing sectors, aquaculture has the lowest feed demand and is a resource-friendly management - pointed out a member of the Ministry of Agriculture, Péter Lengyel.
President of the National Federation of Hungarian Anglers (Hungarian abbreviation: ‘MOHOSZ’), Dr István Dérer, said that today there are 549,000 registered anglers in Hungary, the goal is to reach six hundred thousand within five years! He emphasised: the quality of natural waters does not dependent on the fishing activity.
As Péter Lengyel said, aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector in the world with 5.8%. It is no coincidence that its role in fish consumption is constantly growing. However, growth in Europe is sluggish, with a modest contribution to GDP of only 0.03% in Hungary, although it may play a locally important role in employment.
We should not be ashamed however, because, in addition to being the largest African catfish producer in Europe, we are ranked fifth in the world for per capita carp production.
About the HappyFish project
The consortium of the project "Development of a new risk management model system in order to increase water and food safety in the fish product area", known simply as Happy Fish, is composed of the independent testing laboratory of WESSLING Hungary Kft. (head of the consortium), Institute of Aquaculture and Environmental Safety of Szent István University and its Department of Refrigeration and Livestocks Products, as well as The Fishmarket Kft. and SKC Consulting Kft. The main goal is to describe the criteria for quality fish meat, to determine the substances having an impact on the quality of fish meat from the lake to the table. In conclusion, drawing up proposals for limit values based on risk assessment and consumption models, which could also provide a basis for the regulation of fish products. The total grant amount is HUF 1,419,187,223, of which the non-refundable grant amount is HUF 1,095,243,937. The National Competitiveness and Excellence Programme was launched by the National Office for Research, Development and Innovation, with the non-refundable grant provided by the Hungarian State.