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How To Avoid The “Mess” In US Canned Tuna United States, August 21, 12

American canned tuna is drowning in water and both companies and inventors alike are trying to throw it a lifeline. For some time now, the average can of tuna on U.S. store shelves has contained an extra ingredient - vegetable broth - that is virtually unheard of in other markets around the world. Recently, the U.S. Big Three brands had to pay USD 3.3 million collectively over complaints that their cans had less tuna than advertised on their labels.
Vegetable broth, or hydrolyzed vegetable proteins (HPV), is added to the tuna meat to increase its water retention and to reduce the cost of production. The result is a low quality product that has caused volume sales to suffer and is even hindering the convenience of a supposedly quick and easy meal.
Currently, American consumers are stuck using their hands to press the lid into the tuna can to squeeze out the excess liquid. The preparation is necessary and a messy affair, say the innovators behind the No Mess Press, a new tool designed to drain the liquid from a can and remove its lid hands-free. If heavy pressure is not exerted to drain the can, a simple tuna sandwich will be soggy in minutes.
“Doing it manually is just an inconvenience. It’s not a very pleasant process because you get the liquid on your fingers and the smell is not that great,” explains inventor Michael Cantore.
While the task is a common chore in the U.S., the draining process for consumers in Europe is practically effortless because they are used to a higher standard of product. The quality of canned tuna in the European market is noticeably better in taste, appearance and drained weight.
The tuna content in cans sold in the Netherlands and Germany, for instance, are mostly solid in structure. Tuna chunks - about 2.5 cm in size - fill the can with a minimal amount of flakes and no additives. When the cans are drained in product control evaluations, the amount of liquid is 22% (Germany) and 30% (Netherlands) of the total net weight.
Drained fluids from two popular U.S. tuna brands accounted for 37% and 40% of the total net weight. The watered-down products might be labeled with the word “chunk,” but the contents are far from the description. Mushy tuna flakes fill American cans rather than solid chunks and similar to the HPV, they increase absorption too. The industry’s standard method of evaluation - draining tuna through a sieve - also cannot be used since the flakes would simply pass through the holes. Instead, U.S. canned tuna is measured using a press technique that involves squeezing the can.
Michael Cantore, Michael Tobin and Emmett Towey are the New York-based inventors who hope to offer an easier method for consumers with their patent-pending gadget. The handheld can opener locks the can in place and rotates it to open the lid with the push of a button. Another button imparts 12 pounds of pressure to expel the liquid in the can. In a promotional video, the tool is used to open and drain a can of tuna and a can of green beans. The trio hopes to sell their product later this year.
This past spring, major U.S. brand Chicken of the Sea also launched a line of no-drain tuna to take the mess out of the experience. Since May, the company has offered a selection of 4-ounce varieties that “offers no mess, no draining and firm, moist and delicious-tasting tuna.”
With American consumers eating less tuna, perhaps the Big Three should focus on putting the fish back in the can. However, the brands are unlikely to stop using the HPV additive, despite its deteriorating effect on the final product, until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forces everyone, including private labels, to follow the same rules. For now, three inventors in the Big Apple reckon they have a clean solution.