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Salt replacers

Review of current salt replacing ingredients


The UK’s food industry is under continuing pressure from the government, health officials and retailers to reduce the amount of salt in their food products. Recent statistics from the British Nutrition Foundation shows that the average adult consumes between 9–12g of salt per day, compared to the recommended daily amount of 6g (Gilbert and Heiser, 2010; Henderson et al., 2003).

High sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and strokes (Elliot et al. 1996), both of which are leading causes for increased rates of mortality in the UK (Bolhius et al. 2011). The majority of the population receive most of their sodium intake from processed foods (about 75%). Nutritionists predict that a reduction in salt consumption to 6g per day would lead to a reduction of 2.5 million deaths worldwide per year (He et al. 2008; Macgregor and Sever, 2003).

Food manufacturers are being encouraged to produce products with lower salt contents, within target guidelines, drawn up by the Foods Standards Agency (FSA), and now managed by the Department of Health under the Responsibility Deal (FDF, 2011). However, they face complications, as the consumer will expect “reduced salt” products to exhibit the same flavour and appearance as the original version, but be healthier because of the reduction in salt.

This review focuses on the approaches developed for salt reduction, including salt replacers, flavour enhancing ingredients and other novel methods.

Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride, generally known as salt, is one of the most widely used ingredients in today’s food industry, because of its functionality and low cost (Albarracin et al. 2011). In food, salt performs a variety of key functions, including flavour enhancement, improving texture, facilitation of processing and, in some situations, its contribution to food preservation.

Processed foods are responsible for 75% of daily salt intake (Beeran and Morley, 2011). The largest salt contributors include processed meats (18%), bread and bakery products (13%), dairy products (12%) and sauces and spreads (11%) (Mhurchu et al. 2010). The recent EU Regulation provision of food information for consumers requires food packaging to show the level of salt present in foods. This is calculated by multiplying the sodium content by 2.5.

Salt reduction and the impact on the food industry

Efforts are being made by food manufacturers to decrease the salt content of processed foods. Tables were drawn up by the FSA that highlighted the salt content of 80 processed food types, including meat, bakery and snack products, and the levels to be targeted and reduced. The tables also declared the target salt levels for 2010 and 2012 (Mhurchu et al. 2010).