Living With Added Chitin

The cuticle of insects and other arthropods contains chitin, the second most ubiquitous carbohydrate polymer on planet (#1 is cellulose found in plants). Chitin protects arthropods from microorganisms and has other preservative properties. These properties could be useful for the preservation of seafood such as shrimp. Chitin is only water soluble under acid conditions and acid conditions may adversely affect preservation. However, the amorphous regions can be removed from chitin by acidolysis to create nano-scale particles of chitin (called “chitin whiskers”) that are water soluble.

A group of Thai scientists has developed a method to improve shrimp for market by treating them with chitin whiskers. The chitin whiskers can be dissolved in water and seafood, such as shrimp, soaked in the chitin whisker solution (the chitin originates with the shell of the shrimp). The chitin whiskers permeate the muscle (edible part) of the shrimp and fill the gaps. This gives the shrimp a “fresh quality”, inhibits growth of microorganisms and increases the weight of the shrimp. The process adds back a natural part of the shrimp (derived from the shell) instead of a synthetic material.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Food. Bookmark the permalink.

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