Fish smokers chew on traditional cure Published: 04 February, 2005
Smoked fish could soon be getting a new lease of life, thanks to a
discovery based on a traditional Middle Eastern cure for tooth decay.
Researchers at Heriot-Watt University have discovered a new way to smoke
fish which prolongs its shelf life and kills off any bacteria, following
a chance conversation with a student using a traditional teak-wood
Professor Brian Austin, Professor of Microbiology, said, “I queried one
of my PhD students about a stick of wood he was chewing. He is from
Saudi Arabia, and told me that chewing of certain woods, including the
teak stick he was using, was a traditional way to avoid dental caries in
the Middle East and Africa.
“Intrigued, we conducted a series of experiments on teak wood and
managed to extract two compounds, one already known from walnuts and one
which seems to be altogether new. Then, since we specialise in fish
breeding and some manufacturing techniques, we decided to add some teak,
about ten percent, to the usual oak chips as part of our fish-smoking
research. We were delighted to discover that the fish smoked this way
stayed fresh longer and that all bacteria was eliminated, even when we
cheated and added extra bacteria to the raw fish before smoking it!”
Professor Austin and his colleague Dr Sue Dewar are now continuing their
research into the unknown compound, and plan to conduct further
experiments into other woods used for chewing sticks. They will also be
speaking to commercial fish smokers about their research discoveries and
how they might be applied in the industry. He stresses that they will be
advising that any use of teak or other woods in the smoking process
should involve supplies from sustainable sources.
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