Prof Works on Formula to Improve Frozen Lobster Quality

This year’s lobster fishing season is over in Atlantic Canada, but work continues for a chemistry professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonich, Nova Scotia, who is determined to improve the flavor profile of frozen lobster available to consumers year-round.

“My research is focused on compounds called cryoprotectants. These substances protect biological structures from the damaging effects of ice formation,” said Dr. Shah Razul. “The focus is to better understand how these compounds can be used to cryogenically preserve cooked lobster meat in frozen storage. I am interested in how these cryoprotectants inhibit or disrupt ice formation and preserve the integrity of the biological structures."

Lobster MyStFX 300The professor is utilizing laboratory trials as well as computer modeling to gather insights for “tuning cryoprotectants to be used in a practical way.” This summer he began a year-long study, federally-funded by Springboard Atlantic, to quantify the effectiveness of an experimental cryoprotectant formulation that blends six unspecified ingredients into a conventional brine solution employed by industrial freezers of seafood. Ninety kilograms of lobster harvested from Nova Scotia waters were boiled, shelled and flash-frozen in vials at -20°C. The meat will be thawed and put to a sensory analysis taste test six and 12 months hence.

"We can get caught up with scientific principles and how crystallization of water happens and what the molecules do," said Razul. "But at the end, the consumer decides if it tastes good.”

Indeed, it was the professor’s dissatisfaction with the quality of a pricy package of frozen lobster purchased in Singapore a few years ago that prompted the research project. His post-purchase intention was to prepare a traditional Canadian Maritimes-style lobster roll in the Lion City that would be a treat to eat, but unfortunately such was not the result.

“The sandwich was not very good because the lobster product wasn’t very good at all. It didn’t hold up very well to the long-term frozen storage,” said Razul. “It’s time to come up with something better.

The dedicated researcher hopes the findings of his study may be applied to other seafood species as well as lobster, as it could make a significant difference in delivering higher quality products to consumers and extending the shelf life of marine products. Time will tell.