Surimi - a fish-based food product that has been pulverized to a thick paste - is used in many Asian cultures to mimic the texture and color of the meat of lobster, crab and other shellfish. Surimi is also available in the Western market and is usually sold as imitation crab meat.
Aproblem arises in the production of surimi, and similar processed fish products, when a certain type of parasite is present in the muscle of the fish that are used. Instead of a product that resembles real crab meat, the parasites cause the muscle tissue to soften and turn to mush during processing. The resulting product cannot be sold as surimi.
In 1990, NOAA scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service patented a technique for using a water extract of potato to treat fish meat used in surimi to improve the overall firmness of the texture in the final product. Previous efforts to solve this messy problem, such as rapid heating of the fish, or applications of dried egg, either did not work or produced meat with undesirable odors or colors.
The invention developed by NOAA scientists improved upon existing processing technologies and resulted in a more economical usage of multiple fish species in the manufacture of surimi in the United States.