Check For Sodium Tripolyphosphate Before Buying Any Packaged Shrimp or Seafood
While many of us are seafood lovers, most of us don't want to ingest toxins masquerading as preservatives in the process. One specific sodium salt ingredient in more than 90% of packaged shrimp and seafood is clearly something of great concern, especially since it's also used in detergents, antifreeze and flame retardants.
Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP) is an inorganic compound mostly used for preserving frozen meat and seafood products. Used in trace amounts, STPP preserves the water content inside the flesh.
Other uses (hundreds of thousands of tons/year) include anticaking agents, flame retardants, paper, anticorrosion pigments, textiles, rubber manufacture, fermentation, antifreeze and commercial detergents.
An excerpt below from Tradex Foods' revolutionary training tool -- School of Fish -- this video segment takes a closer look at excessive soaking - a common deceptive practice employed by seafood producers. The video includes a demonstration on how to identify excessively soaked products and what the consequences are to consumers and chefs.
This controversial additive can make expired products appear
firmer and glossier, and fool consumers into buying old or spoiled fish, shrimp and other seafood foods that could ultimately make people sick. Worse yet, exposure to the chemical itself could also be very harmful.
STPP, is a suspected neurotoxin according to the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Registry of Toxic Effects of
Chemical Substances. Food-grade STPP may cause acute
skin irritation, and prolonged contact with skin should be avoided. STPP is listed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act as a registered pesticide and it is also registered as an air contaminant under California’s Occupational and Safety Health Act. The material safety data sheet lists STPP as toxic to the lungs with prolonged exposure having the potential to produce organ damage.
Yet, the FDA still considers this toxic chemical to be“generally recognized as safe” as a food preservative. Its
household and industrial uses alone as cleaning and sanitizing agents would make one suspect this does not belong in our food.
Every country has its own standards for acceptable levels of this toxin in foods. In recent years, many seafood producers have increased levels of STPP beyond acceptable limits to excessively soak seafood to boost profits at the expense of their customers. It increases the weight of seafood due to water retention and heavier product can be sold for more money. With increased water weight, consumers pay a higher price per pound of seafood.
When STPP is abused by fisheries and food manufacturers,
it results in an unnatural level of water within the flesh. The ultimate byproduct of excessive soaking is a toxic release of this toxin and a dramatic reduction in portion size when the seafood is cooked.
Much like the application of meat glue, treatment of STPP is also used as a binding agent to hold flaky fish products together. Proponents claim the
treatment is done for cosmetic purposes, and that treatment does not affect the quality of the fish. Because STPP changes how the product looks, it can
make spoiled fish appear fresh, increasing the risk of illness for consumers.
Application of STPP to seafood takes seconds to minutes, depending on the salinity and weight of the product. It can affect the flavour and quality of the seafood, typically resulting in a soapy or alkaline taste. Consumers will immediately recognize this in shrimp rings sold at major grocery retailers. However it is most obvious with lighter or more delicately flavored seafood, like
Many countries have taken a precautionary approach to
the use of STPP in food products. The European Union, Canada and Brazil
all have limits on the total level of STPP allowed in seafood
products, generally between 0.1% and 0.5% of the final product. However, the United States
does not have a limit of how much STPP can be present in seafood products leaving consumers extremely vulnerable to this deceptive practice. Due to its toxic nature, it can be concluded that no amount of STPP is safe for human consumption and the foods with this ingredient should be avoided in any country.
HOW TO AVOID STPP
Check labels: Unfortunately, labeling isn’t required for
fresh seafood treated with STPP, although some packaged
seafood products may list it as an ingredient.
Choose Scallops and Shrimp labeled as “Dry”
Scallops and shrimp are two of the most commonly found sea-
food items treated with STPP, and those labeled as “dry”
have not been treated with STTP. Avoid seafood marked
as “wet,” which means that they have been soaked in an
Ask at Markets or Restaurants Whenever you’re purchas ing seafood, whether at the market or in a restaurant, ask if the seafood has been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, or STPP. If they don't know, don't buy.