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309. World Food Safety Day and Traditional Asian Foods

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In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted June 7 as World Food Safety Day, a day to celebrate the benefits of safe food. 

This year's theme, “Safe food now for a healthy tomorrow”, aims to remind us that recognizing the systemic connections between the health of people, animals, plants, the environment and the economy will help meet the needs of future generations. Foodborne illnesses affect all generations worldwide, but pose a particularly serious health risk to young children under the age of five in low-income countries.

JIRCAS has been developing technologies to ensure the safety of traditional foods in developing countries. As an example, we would like to introduce the fermented freshwater fish seasoning (Lao name: padaek) in the landlocked country of Laos. Padaek is a traditional food made by fermenting freshwater fish, an important food resource of Laos, with salt and rice bran at room temperature for six months to a year. Padaek is eaten like a salad with shredded green papaya as shown in the photo, and is also used to season various dishes such as soups and grilled dishes.

Along with commercial products distributed in the market, padaek produced and consumed by rural households is also important as a source of nutrition to utilize the indigenous fish resources. On the other hand, during the fermentation process, histidine, an amino acid produced by the breakdown of fish protein, may be converted to histamine by some bacteria. Although susceptibility varies from person to person, foods containing more than 500 to 1,000 ppm histamine can cause allergy-like food poisoning concerns. Collaborative research between JIRCAS and local research institutes revealed that adjusting the salt content to about 18% at the time of preparation can inhibit the production of histamine during fermentation. We have conducted training and developed a manual for rural residents to promote the use of this method. Elucidating the factors that cause histamine production in padaek and disseminating the suppression method are expected to ensure safety and reduce food waste.

Marui J et al. (2020) Journal of Food Protection, 84(3):429–436

Contributor: MARUI Jun-ichiro (Biological Resources and Post-harvest Division)

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