In a world full of Bumble Bee, Starkist, and Chicken of the Sea it is easy to see there is not much effort in testing, packaging, and providing the cleanest and highest grade tuna to your customers. Safe Catch saw where others were failing and decided to fill in the gap. Safe Catch may be the new kid on the block for canned tuna, but the Safe Catch team is proud to call themselves a provider of pure and tested seafood.
Total Food Service sat down with Sean Wittenberg, president and founder of Safe Catch Inc., to learn more about what they are all about.
We have found ourselves at a crucial and important time in food service. There has been a huge push to really know exactly what you are eating. It takes form in a variety of campaigns and organization like Victoria’s Fine Foods Read Your Label Campaign. With the rise in pre-portioned meal delivery systems like Blue Apron, Plated, and Hello Fresh there is a big interest for farm-fresh, organic food that you can trust and know exactly where it came from. There has always been one segment of the industry that has not kept up with this trend and that’s seafood. Let’s be honest and say that the entire canned tuna industry has been the same for the past 30 years, and is an aged process with little to no regulation.
“What we do is we design technology to support products that we think are incrementally healthier, safer, and better for people,” said Wittenberg. Safe Catch is the first tuna brand that tests every single fish individually for mercury concentration before it’s purchased. You would think that this would be an essential for all the major players, but unfortunately it’s not. Safe Catch is a relatively young company, formed in 2014, but Sean and his team are no strangers to the technology and food space. “What we’ve done is leverage our experience inside seafood and the seafood supply chains with our tech backgrounds and we married that all together. We provide what we believe to be a real paradigm shift as far as purity is concerned,” said Wittenberg.
Safe Catch has performed over one million product tests for mercury concentration. For their Safe Catch Elite, each tuna must pass the mercury test at a maximum of .1 parts per 1,000,000, which is ten times stricter than the FDA standard. Safe Catch wanted to provide an honest product that will reduce the ever growing concerns by pregnant women, kids, or any health conscious consumer. Safe Catch is able to provide the healthiest seafood products due to their breakthrough technology that tests the mercury concentration of every individual fish. The Safe Catch testing device may not have the catchiest name, but the Multi Species Multi Analyzer (MMA) aka the Artificial Penalizer, is the groundbreaking new tech that will hopefully someday be the standard for seafood. “We started off as scientists, became seafood guys, and from that we became product guys,” said Wittenberg.
While the Multi Species Multi Analyzer is a breakthrough, unfortunately it is not for sale yet. “As a company we are incredibly open and willing to working with other brands, producers and packers who want to give their customers a safer product,” said Wittenberg. Traditional canned tuna has remained un-changed since the early 1900s. “The process has remained the same, they take frozen whole tuna and place them on metal racks inside a big pre-cooker oven, which looks like a big metal tube. The oven is then sealed and the tuna is cooked. This process however cooks out all of the fat-soluble nutrients, which leaves you with a dehydrated lean protein that has lost most of its nutrient value. After that point they cool the dehydrated lean protein, with cold water to bring it down in temperature. Then they take the fish and cut it into four loins, clean it, and then put the dehydrated lean protein into the can followed with a packing medium, like water or oil since the fish has limited to no moisture,” Wittenberg added.
Aside from the clear nonchalant canning of possibly high levels of mercury contaminated tuna, this process loses something essential that our bodies need, treasured Omega-3s. Which you can get in an avocado, chia seeds, walnuts, soy beans and spinach but it’s not something your body will produce naturally. The common knowledge of the vital benefits associated with Omega-3’s has been popular in recent years, and makes seafood so important to eat.
Safe Catch had to make a decision if they would stick to this traditional and outdated canning method, or find their own way that is aligned with their core values of transparency and health. “We decided to start over and embrace the very artisanal process. We decided to hand cut and hand pack all of our tuna raw, then we take that raw sushi grade tuna steak and put it directly in the BPA free can or pouch. This way we avoid all the machine processing, pre-cooker, and cooling steps. We then seal the package and cook the tuna fish in its own natural fats. This way all the natural Omega3s are retained for optimum health benefits and flavor,” Wittenberg added. Safe Catch developed an algorithm that slowly cooks the product in the can, making it shelf stable on the first and only cooking step, aka the retort step. Safe Catch eliminates all the processing while producing more labor, and more jobs.
Safe Catch may be a new brand, but they are making their way from the West Coast to the East. Currently Safe Catch is in over 5,000 stores nationwide, from small West Coast chains like New Leaf, to major chains like Stop and Shop. On the food service side Safe Catch has a warehouse in New Jersey and California, and is making itself available within major food service distributors. Best way to get in contact or to learn more is to visit their website.