University of Arkansas dried plums phosphate replacement research

(Republished from the California Dried Plum Board e-mail newsletter, Oct. 21, 2009)

Many meat products include the addition of alkaline phosphates as a method of retaining moisture and extending shelf life. However, phosphates often exhibit unacceptable off-flavors including a "soapy" flavor note. In addition, there is a growing consumer and foodservice operator rejection of unknown, synthetic ingredients and an acceptance of natural ingredients in processed foods (Sloan, A. E., Food Technology November 2003, Volume 57, No.11)

Early evidence suggests that dried plum ingredients could be used to replace alkaline phosphates in animal protein products. An initial experiment successfully replaced alkaline phosphates in vacuum tumbled boneless/skinless chicken breasts using dried plum powder and dried plum fiber. Follow-up evaluations using fresh plum juice concentrate to replace phosphates yielded similar results. Moisture binding was within acceptable targets before and after cooking with superior sensory characteristics versus control chicken breasts.

These results encouraged the California Dried Plum Board to award a research contract to the University of Arkansas to evaluate the ability of dried plum ingredients to replace phosphates in chicken. The year-long study will expand the body of existing knowledge supporting dried plums' efficacy as a meat ingredient.