A look over past decade shows an evident surge of consumer concern towards the health augmenting role of some specific foods which are refer as functional foods. Evidently all foods that we consume are functional in nature as they dispense specific aroma, taste and nutritive value, however during last decade the term has been related to the food stuff which has some additional health benefit apart from embedding basic nutritional requisite (Hasler, 1998). Although it is still consider as an underdeveloped notion yet the concept of functional food has its roots back in japan where it was first introduced in 1980’s which cites, the processed foods beyond just being nutritious, should also carrying ingredients that assist particular body functions (Arai, 1996).
Meat industry is one of the most important and fastest growing industries across the globe. The vicious competition in the industry and the consumer demand has led the industry towards the research and manufacturing of various healthy products (Fernandez et al., 2005), however number of products have been accused of contribution towards certain pathological conditions related with body cholesterol, fatty acids and their affiliation towards obesity, cancer and cardiovascular problems. Consumers also have concerns towards meat consumption because of its association with cholesterol (Higgs, 2000).
Over the past few years the consumer demand for food has been changed remarkably. The food today is not just consumed to content the nutritional need or to satisfy the hunger, besides it may also play a good role in building a good mental and physical attributes of human beings (Menrad, 2003). In USA and Japan the research over the functional foods and meat products has broadened in last decade (Forsythe, 2000). The FDA has acknowledged 11 food components in 1998, illustrating that their intake harmonizes the health benefits (Diplock et al., 1999).
The functional foods and meat products are beneficial for human health as suggested by various studies, so this study will demonstrate and exemplify the use of certain functional foods and some ingredients with their benefits in the meat and will provide the avenue for the future prospects towards the scope and use of functional meat products.
- Functional Foods:
The addition of some ingredients such as vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, B, folic acid, zinc, iron and calcium were some of the early developments of functional foods (Sloan, 2000). The focal point was then shifted towards the enhancement of products with more potent micronutrients like omerga-3 fatty acids and soluble fibers, in order to diminish the health risks like CVD and cancer thus ensuring good health (Sloan, 2002). As a part of recent development some companies are striving to develop more food products with multiple health benefits combined in a single source (Sloan, 2004). The most commonly used functional foods of different origin and products will be discussed below.
- n-3 fatty acids:
The abundantly using and most documented functional food out of animal origin is n-3 fatty acids, which have their origin from fish such as Tuna, salmon and herring (Hasler, 2002). The two main subunits of n-3 fatty acids are EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is predominantly found in cellular membranes especially in the retina of eye and the brain and is essential for the proper functioning of these parts. Their beneficial effects for the heart problems are also well documented, which suggests that the proper intake of n-3 fatty acids may reduce the chances of death that may occur due to the myocardial infarctions among the patients with CVD (Bucher et al., 2002).
FDA has permitted the use of DHA and arachidonic acid in the food products for infants (FDA, 2002), after knowing their health outcomes in the development of organs in infants (Crawford, 2000). FDA has concluded the safe use of n-3 fatty acid supplements provided that the intake of DHA and EPA should not exceeds 2g/day (FDA, 2002). However the excessive use of n-3 fatty acids may contributes towards certain pathological conditions like prolonged bleeding time and hemorrhagic stroke and elevated cholesterol levels.
Currently the functional food market has been prevailed by the gut health promoting products in Europe and Japan, particularly known as probiotics (Alzamora et al., 2005). Probiotics are the viable microorganisms which fortify the good health of gut if taken in adequate amounts. Around 400 products with probiotics were being launched worldwide in 2005 (Ouwehand, 2007).
Dairy food products are the integral product part among probiotics which accounts about 56% of the total functional foods with the annual global sale of 31.1 billion US$ in 2004 (Benkouider, 2005). Scandinavian countries act as the flourished markets for dairy probiotics whereas; Spain, France and Greece are the emerging markets Aakula, 2006).
Prebiotics are being used worldwide around 167,000 tons each year. These are the regarded as food ingredients which may harbor the growth of an individual host by enhancing the activity of micro flora that are present in colon, thus improvising host health (Stanton et al., 2005). Some sugars and starch, such as lactulose, fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) and isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO) falls under this category. Japan has a big market primarily for oligosaccharides, including galacto-oligosaccharide and soy oligosaccharide (Ouwehand, 2007).
Number of studies has suggested that oligosaccharides have vital role in controlling obesity thus resulting in lessen hunger and elevating satisfaction (Bosscher, 2007). Apart from being prebiotics the fermentable fructans and oligofructose possess a unique ability to enhance the calcium absorption resulting in the bone mineral density improvement, besides they also constitute the blood glucose (Moline et al., 2005). In combination, prebiotics and probiotics have synergic effect, so any food product which contains both ingredients may refer as synbiotics (Gibson, 1995).
- Cereals as a functional food:
The health ameliorate effects of cereal, oat and barley in particular, has helped in the production of cereal foods and ingredients. Water and soluble fibers are the main constituents of cereals such as oligosaccharides, beta glucan and arabinoxylan which may enable the cereals to exhibit the prebiotic like properties (Siro et al., 2008).
Recent research and studies illustrate the use of beta glucan in some dairy products such as ice creams and yogurts which may enhance the functionality of the products (Brennan, 2005). There are still some ongoing EU projects about the use of beta glucans in some food products with superior health benefits and functionality (Poutanen, 2006). Apart from the extraction of beta glucans, cereals itself act as a functional food due to the antioxidant activity of the phytochemicals they contain (Kuhnen et al., 2009).
Considering the heart health and hypertension problems, eggs with omerga-3 PUFA has been developed now (Blades, 2000). Various products such as biscuits and breads made by adding these eggs are also available in markets now. Belgium stands as a pioneer after producing vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acid enriched eggs called as “Columbus eggs” back in 1997, followed by UK and Netherland in following years 1998 and 1999 (Kaur, 2011). Europe is now producing 50 million Columbus eggs per year, through some prominent companies named Gold circle farms and pilgrim’s pride, while Freshlay foods produce in UK (Siro et al., 2008).
- Functional meat and meat products:
Meat acts as a basic component of diet worldwide. It contains many healthy compounds which have health cherishing nature (McAfee et al., 2010). The precipitation of conjugated linoleic acids, proteins, vitamins (B&E), enzymes and fatty acids in the body though meat intake could make meat a functional product without further addition of anything (Ferguson, 2010), therefore the stability, bioavailability and adequate amounts of these components in the processed products is a main focus which comes under the health and nutrition legislation of Regulations EU 1924/2006 and Regulations EU 432/2012 (Alonso et al., 2013).
Some countries have low or fat free meat products are now available in market, considering USA as a leader (Colmenero et al., 2006). The processing of meat and products may generates functional compounds such as some peptides form as a result of fermentation and protein hydrolysis, which will ultimately provide physiological advantages (Saiga et al., 2003). The assimilation of some functional compounds and their beneficial use in meat is as under:
- Low fat meat and products:
The compounds in meat and its products which may cause a health risk in terms of high cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease can be substituted by beneficial ingredients. The availability of low fat frankfurter has been evident in the US markets which contain half the fat (14-15%) than the traditional frankfurters, however these are also available as extra leans, containing fat under 5% (Pearson, 1996).
There has been hike in interest noticed recently about the studies related to alteration of the fatty acid composition of meat (Wood et al., 2002), thus producing meat products with the low health risk and having alike properties to that of lean meat fat composition. Low sugar or sugar free products including sausages and roasted hams are available in japan and some other parts of the world now days (Arihara, 2004). (Fig. 1)
- Low Salt meat and products:
Salt is a core ingredient and exhibits multiple functions in meat processing, including flavor, protein hydrolysis and increasing shelf life of the product. However the excessive intake of sodium may lure to the hypertension and ultimately CVD. This has exerted a pressure on the meat industry and researchers to devise some methods of minimizing the salt contents in processed meat products (Desmond, 2006). The meat products account 20.8% towards sodium intake in UK while the value is 21% in USA (Engstrome et al., 1997). After the UK government initiative to lower the salt contents in processed meat products, this challenge was then targeted by food standard agency to devise the recommended levels of dietary salt in processed meat products (FSA, 2006).
The use of various functional ingredients as masking agents and salt replacers led the industry to produce low salt products. Phosphate and chloride, MSG, sodium ascorbate and sodium sulphite salts comes under this context for the production of some low salt products as shown in fig. 2. The use of mineral salt mixtures however considered as effective way to minimize the salt contents thus producing the same flavor as of natural salt (Puolanne et al., 1988). Labelled low salt sausages with just 1.2% sodium contents are present in Finland which is being prepared from mineral salt mixtures (Ruusunen, 2005).
- Soya, an emerging functional protein and meat ingredient:
As the global demand for proteins particularly meat has been inclined spectacularly, an alternative protein source and production of nutritious yet economical meat was need of the hour, so the meat processors and enterprises came up with the solution to utilize the soy and its related products in meat in the form of soya flour and soya protein concentrate (ADM, 2011). The viable benefits of soya include its good fat and water holding properties, maximum yield and nutritional value and emulsion stability (Chin et al., 2000). It is regarded as a healthy food with high protein and fibers profile, particularly for vegetarians (Rareunrome, 2007).
Besides its utilization to enhance the characteristics of meat during processing, the use of soya is quiet more popular in meat emulsion systems and preparing products that contain protein contents similar to that of meat. Because the nutritional value of soya protein is similar to meat (deMan, 1990). Various vegetarian products containing soya proteins are now available on the shelves of the retailers as shown in fig 3. Some of the big companies such as Cargill foods are using soya flour in their processed meat items to restrict the use of raw meat for both nutritional and economic reasons.
- Scope of functional meat products:
Number of studies and researchers has concluded that the functional foods are regarded as a source of health benefits besides their traditional nutritional composition. The trend for the food consumption has been changed now in the developed countries. People are getting more health conscious and they like to consume the food having certain nutritional benefits (Arihara, 2006). The motivation of the consumer behind buying functional food stuff to avoid various chronic pathological conditions such as CVD, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and hypertension cannot be subsided (Khan et al., 2013). This act has provided a stimulus for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and food industry to combine their efforts and thrive to spread their tentacles in meat industry for the manufacturing of healthy meat products, as meat constitutes a significant portion of daily diet.
Consuming traditional meat may contribute towards the diverse pathological conditions including coronary heart disease and high blood pressure (Muguerza et al., 2004). For that reason even being an integral component of diet in advanced nations the meat consumption yet can be effected as it is also considered as source of cholesterol and saturated fatty acids in diet (Colmenero et al., 2001). So the reason and the dire need for the production of functional meat products are quite evident, however the consumer perception towards functional foods and meat products may hinders the production. Functional food stuff does not fall under a food category; rather it is a concept in European food legislation (Coppens et al., 2006).
The consumer perception about functional meat manufacturing is not too vague as suggested in different studies, provided that the trustworthy description of health ingredients on labels and preserving the original taste of the product (Verbeke, 2005). The consumption of functional meat may vary demographically, for instance people in Denmark may get suspicious about the ingredients being used in functional meat products and they may perceive them as unnatural products (Beckmann, 1998) whilst on the other hand acceptance for such stuff is fairly high in USA.
Salt is a basic component in processed meat, in Spain particularly meat products contributes a high salt intake of 20-30% due to high meat consumption, so from health point of view it may originates an interest for minimizing the sodium contents in meat products (Guardia et al.,2006). Similarly the demand for the low fat meat products is fairly high in the countries with high obesity ratio. However the consumer approach towards the functional meat products is still vibrant (Verbeke, 2005).
Above literature has drawn some conclusions that the functional foods cannot be mixed up with medical health stuffs. A food should fulfill three requirements to attain the status of functional food which includes, it should be taken as a part of daily diet, food should be procured from natural ingredients and it should not be exist in the form of tablets and capsules and once ingested it should help the normal physiological functions of body by aiding them with certain nourishing ingredients.
USA and Europe are exhausting a lot of money for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases which may arise as a result of high salt intake. An estimate shows that CVD costs USA an amount of $ 403 billion and Europe €169 billion annual every year (Desmond, 2006). These figures can provide a good reason to produce some meat products with low salt foods and meat products. As obesity has been a major issue across the globe and USA in particular which has provided a fertile idea for the manufacturing of low fat food stuff.
The variation in the demand of functional food and meat products may cause some unwanted effects in the industry due to lack of data and research, so an advice for further research is mandatory (Childs, 1997). The consumer attitude towards the product could never be underestimated as the marketing and the production of products depends on the consumer perception (Graaf, 1991). The theory of reasoned action suggested by (Ajzen, 1975) can be used for the future development of the functional products, however the need for the consumer awareness about the functional foods is still viable to raise the healthiness and well-being of people and to keep the industry productive.