There is growing interest in Baltic herring (Clupea harengus membras) and other undervalued, small-sized fish species for human consumption. Gutting or filleting of small-sized fish is impractical; hence, the aim of this study was to explore the suitability of the whole (ungutted) herring for food use. The microbiological quality of commercially fished whole and gutted herring was analysed with culture-dependent methods combined with identification of bacterial isolates with MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometry and culture-independent 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Whole and gutted herring had between 2.8 and 5.3 log10 CFU g-1 aerobic mesophilic and psychrotrophic bacteria and between 2.2 and 5.6 log10 CFU g-1 H2S-producing bacteria. Enterobacteria counts remained low in all the analysed herring batches. The herring microbiota largely comprised the phyla Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Actinobacteria (71.7% to 95.0%). Shewanella, Pseudomonas, and Aeromonas were the most frequently isolated genera among the viable population; however, with the culture-independent approach, Shewanella followed by Psychrobacter were the most abundant genera. In some samples, a high relative abundance of the phylum Epsilonbacteraeota, represented by the genus Arcobacter, was detected. This study reports the bacterial diversity present in Baltic herring and shows that the microbiological quality was acceptable in all the analysed fish batches.
- 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing
- Gutted fish
- MALDI-TOF MS
- Microbiological quality
- Whole fish