Although the boy could have chosen the economic route of operating the family seafood business, his love for the seafood industry guided him down the academic path. Therefore, instead of working in the seafood business with his family he chose to become a seafood scientist. Now Musleh Uddin with a Ph.D. and two Masters Degrees in Food Science and Seafood Technology has the best of both worlds. He is Albion Farms & Fisheries (AFF) Director of Quality Assurance concurrently supervising Post Graduate food science student and research programs at AFF for UBC and students from abroad. We recently had a chance to talk to this remarkable man and his passion for the seafood industry.
Albion Farms and Fisheries: Where were you born and raised?
Musleh Uddin: I was born in Cox’s Bazar, a major fishing port and district headquarters in Bangladesh. I was raised in several countries. The beach in Cox’s Bazar is the world’s longest unbroken sandy sea beach (120 km long). It is located 150 km south of the industrial port Chittagong. My family ran a black tiger shrimp farm and a medium size processing plant. They sold their product in EU and USA.
AFF: How did you get started in this business?
MU: I was raised in an economic (agribusiness) based family. I started working part time on my family business learned about seafood and the seafood industry first hand. My family wanted me to stay and take over the business one day but I became interested in learning about seafood and wanted to become a professional food scientist.
AFF: A food scientist? Where did you get your training?
MU: Instead of staying in the family business, I took the educational route. I earned a Bachelor of Science Honours’ degree in Fishery Science and then a master’s degree in Seafood Technology major fish processing and preservation. I received a scholarship from the Tokyo University of Fisheries, Japan and studied for six years sponsored by Japanese ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The University is renowned around the world as the leading educational institution in seafood studies and fishery science. The first year I conducted background research for proposed research topic and an intensive Japanese language course up to intermediate proficiency level required by the university. Next couple of years I worked on my second Master’s degree in food science (food quality major) then remaining three years I went on to earn my Ph.D. in Food Safety. I was offered a post-doctoral fellowship from the National Research Institute of Japan, which I completed in two years. I then received a second tenure-track fellowship from the Kobe University. Upon completion, I was offered a position as a research scientist with the National Research Institute of Japan where I worked on seafood quality and safety for three years. In total, I was educated and worked as a seafood scientist in Japan for over 12 years. I am fluent in my native tongue of Bengali, Japanese, Hindi and English.
AFF: How did you end up in North America with AFF?
MU: I wanted to touch, feel and smell the fish so I went to work for a large Japanese seafood distributor with branches in the USA and Canada. They offered me a job while I was working as an inspector for the Japanese government. I worked for them in Japan for one year then they offered me a position in the USA. At the time, I was married and we had a three-year-old son. They sent me to the USA for four months but I was not happy, so they offered to bring me back to Japan or take an equivalent job in any other country where they had facilities. I requested a move to Vancouver, Canada. Unfortunately, I was being underutilized according to my level of education, knowledge and abilities so, while at a conference in Vancouver, a former AFF President offered me a job and I have been here now for 9 years. I started as a QA Manager and have been Director of QA Corporate for four years. My wife who has her Ph.D. as a nutritionist working full time, and I now have two adorable boys ages 13 & 9 and we all love living here in Vancouver.
AFF: As Director of Quality Assurance, what are your responsibilities?
MU: I am obviously responsible for food safety, food quality, regulatory affairs, and sustainability however with the approval and encouragement of AFF executives, I have been able to utilize my fisheries and seafood scientific knowledge for the economic and technological advancement of the company. I am combining my academic achievements, influence and contacts to provide learning and research opportunities to the University of British Columbia (“UBC”) and international students majoring in the seafood, food science program. In addition to my QA duties, I have provided a platform for graduate students to conduct their thesis research projects in association with AFF and their respective universities. I have close ties to the UBC as an Industrial Advisor and I am an academic advisor with the Tokyo University of Fisheries, Japan. Each year I oversee the graduate research and thesis of two to four overseas students from Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Brazil or Taiwan. These students receive scholarships from their respective universities and coming directly here at AFF or through the UBC. They have the privilege of choosing their supervisors, they are unpaid but they get to work on their research theses within a real-life business environment. The students are conducting research on a variety of projects that are intended to promote safer, better quality control and more sustainable seafood while at the same time focusing on the development of modern technologies benefits to AFF, the seafood industry and their respective universities. For example, some students have taken the challenge of changing any given seafood processing methodology that could lead to a safer, better quality, more sustainable and more profitable practice. Other students could be working on ways of utilizing discarded parts of fish such as using the oils in the skin/belly or scales of fish that can be converted into high quality collagen (protein) to be used in cosmetic products to protect, enhance or in some way provide benefits to human skin. Other students are pushing the limits of quality control by trying to find better working processes that require less time touching and handling the fish and therefore lowering the risk of cross-contamination.
AFF: What are you most passionate about?
MU: Without a doubt, I am most passionate about food safety, food quality and sustainability. Sometimes when I am shopping is a grocery store I observe people selecting their food and I can tell they know little or nothing about what they are buying because I know the food they are buying comes from a processing facility that has little or no concern for food quality also do substitution of high-priced fish with low-priced species by tempering common name.”
AFF: What is the most interesting thing happening in the seafood industry?
MU: The industry is constantly changing. New and better technology is introduced every second year. I want to make sure that the seafood available in market place is of the highest quality and safest for human consumption. I want to see every company adopt these same standards. Several years ago, food safety was either very low or non-existent on a manufacturers list of priorities. Now the industry focuses on safety, quality and sustainability. I am doing what I can do to contribute to keeping the industry sustainable for future generations. Fifteen to twenty years ago, the industry was more reactionary in terms of food safety hazards. Today, we are proactive, protective and preventative.
AFF: What other interests do you have?
MU: As well as my responsibilities, here at AFF and my involvement with the universities and graduate students I am also a member of the International Seafood Inspectors Forum. We have about 200 members worldwide. We regularly discuss food safety issues and help establish policy. I also review articles for several scientific and trade journals. As a reviewer, I examine submitted articles prior to publishing. Most articles are submissions based on the latest scientific research works on analytical advancement, non-invasive/non-destructive rapid technology, food chemistry, food safety, food quality and analysis from industry experts, academic personal and researcher. I also contribute my own articles from time to time and frequently joining seminars, conference and workshops internationally.
AFF: What keeps you loyal to AFF?
MU: I enjoy working at AFF because of its beautiful working environment, exceptionally nice coworkers and senior executives. Guy Dean knew about me through my experience at the number one seafood science university in Japan. AFF GM, Danny Ransom has given me the flexibility to pursue my scientific passion allowing me to utilize my academic expertise and contacts. AFF has given me the opportunity to give time and space in our company for graduate students with their research while I maintain contact with the scientific and academic community. Most recently, I returned from a twelve-day trip delivering keynotes in seafood workshops held in Japan, Philippines and Hong Kong. I do not know of any other companies that have four food science graduates in their QA team and local/international graduate students working with them at any given time. I have the best QA team consists of four passionate food technologists including three UBC food science graduates! I am able to work every day on my passion of achieving safe, quality and sustainable seafood while continuing my connections with the academic and scientific communities.
So, the young boy who grew up loving the seafood industry is now doing his part to keep it safe and sustainable while sharing his knowledge with future generations of fervent seafood enthusiasts. That is why Musleh Uddin is respectfully referred to as the ‘Seafood Savant’.