Influence of Added Fish Oil in Canned Salmon

February 23, 2013

Can manufacturers add fish oil to canned salmon without affecting taste and texture?

Canned salmon is a staple of the U.S. diet, primarily because of consumer awareness of salmon’s omega-3 content. But no two fish are the same. A salmon’s omega-3 content can vary widely, depending on factors such as sexual maturity and spawning migration (when feeding decreases, salmon use their omega-3s as an energy source). How, then, can manufacturers guarantee the omega-3 content of canned salmon from product to product?

Maybe by adding salmon oil to canned salmon-at just the right amount.

With the help of a USDA grant, researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks sought to determine how much salmon oil could be added into canned salmon in such a way that it would guarantee minimum omega-3 contents and not affect consumer tastes. They procured 250 pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) from an Alaskan fishery, classified the fish by their “bright” or “dark” watermarks, and stored them in nearly 1000 cans with 0–4% added salmon oil. After at least eight months, 24 cans were pulled at random and analyzed for omega-3 content. A tasting panel assessed each product for taste, texture, and odor.

Bright pink salmon canned with 2% added fish oil yielded the highest lipid content of any product tested. The lowest lipid content was found in dark pink salmon with 0% added oil. Lipid contents for the other salmon products were deemed comparable, which was likely just due to omega-3 variability in the raw fish.

At the tasting table, volunteers only had disagreement with the taste and texture of dark pink salmon at 4% added oil, so the researchers offered final recommendations of 1% oil for canned bright pink salmon and 2% oil for canned dark pink salmon. These additions should guarantee minimum omega-3 contents of 1.9 g and 1.5 g per 100 g, respectively, noted the researchers.

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