Fish Protein Concentrate : Panacea for Protein Malnutrition – E.R. Pariser
Fish protein concentrate–FPC–was widely publicized during the late 1960s as the most promising of a number of “technological fixes” for ridding mankind of the curse of malnutrition. FPC, a stable protein supplement of high nutritive value and low caloric content prepared from whole, edible-grade fish, was developed concurrently with other protein sources whose expectation value in reducing human misery was high–single-cell protein, synthetic amino acids, leaf protein concentrate, and oilseed isolates among them. The hope for FPC and these other technological developments was based on the belief that malnutrition was largely a protein-deficiency condition and that the new products could be mass produced and, if used as dietary supplements, would alleviate the condition in an economically viable way on a worldwide scale.Based on FPC as typical of manufactured manna–but one whose problems and potential have been more widely documented and more clearly manifested than the others’–this case study charts the rising and falling expectations of the protein concentrate as a solution to the world food crisis. After reviewing the evidence that malnutrition extends well beyond the “protein gap,” that it is not possible to eliminate hunger or alleviate nutritional diseases by treating them as single-factor deficiencies, the authors analyze the claims set forth for FPC in particular and conclude that FPC turned out to be “a sophisticated and capital-intensive technological solution in search of a problem to which it can be applied.”While it looks back to events in the FPC enterprise now concluded, the book’s major concern is to apply past lessons to future endeavors. As the authors state, “at a time when new and economical sources of food are being sought, and when the politics and ethics of food aid are being seriously questioned, we believe that there is much to be learned from the controversial, well-documented, and relatively recent history of the various attempts to develop FPC as a new food component…. We believe that the insights to be gained from such an analysis are important and timely because, despite diminished faith in technological solutions and a broadened concept of the nature of malnutrition, food products like FPC continue to be developed.”The book briefly discusses the historical and cultural background of the use of fish as human food and reviews early FPC development initiatives. It then examines in some detail the struggle for acceptance of FPC in the United States, and in particular the bitter inter-bureaucratic wrangling between an FPC promoter (the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries) and a regulating agency (the Food and Drug Administration) uneasy about the presence of “filth” in food. This controversy had an influence on the acceptability of FPC worldwide, and the book next takes up the experience four other nations of diverse economic development–Canada, Sweden, Chile, and Morocco–had in their efforts to produce and distribute FPC through the public and/or private sectors. The book concludes with an analysis of the international policy implications of FPC.