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Surimi cuts down on salt, fat in processed meats

The newest super ingredient adds high protein, reduces salt and cuts fat in such all-American favorites as pork sausage, hot dogs, sliced bologna and chicken nuggets. Surimi is a Japanese name for the fish paste made from the muscle of Alaskan pollock, a white-fleshed fish of the cod family. It's used in imitation crab legs, scallops and shrimp.

The market for surimi has grown from a statistically insignificant level in 1982 to 120-million pounds in 1987, according to the National Fisheries Institute in Washington. Patricia Manning of Phoenix, a former doctoral student at the University of Arizona, is developing surimi-meat products such as surimi-pork nuggets flavored like breakfast sausage (Spicy Bites) and surimi-beef nuggets flavored with cheese, onions and jalapeno peppers (Southwest Style Golden Morsels).

The fish paste is mixed with meat to help bind the meat together, as in processed meat. Surimi can replace salt as a binding or emulsifying agent in meat because the fish can form strong gels.

To produce the fish paste, the pollock are filleted, washed and strained several times and then frozen at a very low temperature.