A wider scope in sodium reduction

by Jeff Gelski
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While soup companies promote their reduced-sodium products, similar marketing opportunities may exist in other processed food categories, too. Considering that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 estimated processed foods account for 77% of the sodium found in American diets, other categories ripe for reduced-sodium sales could be foods marketed to children, bread and other baked foods, and processed protein products such as turkey breast slices.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership between the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, addressed sodium in its "Guidelines for Competitive Foods Sold in Schools to Students." Foods with 230 mg or less of sodium may meet the guidelines’ criteria. Other more nutritious foods may have more sodium and still qualify. Low-fat and fat-free dairy products, for example, should have 480 mg or less of sodium as should vegetables with sauce, and soups that have a certain amount of fiber, protein, vitamins or minerals.

The United Kingdom’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommended children ages 4 to 6 eat no more than 3 grams of salt per day, or about 1,200 mg of sodium, which is half the adult limit. Children ages 1 to 3 should eat no more than 2 grams of salt per day.

Research published Jan. 28 by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) revealed many processed foods eaten by children in the United Kingdom contain more than 1 gram of salt per serving. The foods included fried chicken portions, baked beans, pizza, sausage, ham, beef burgers, noodles, white bread and popcorn.

"Many parents know that their children should eat less salt than adults, and we know that most parents do not add salt when they are cooking for their children," said Jo Butten, a nutritionist for CASH. "But they are still confused by labeling that does not clearly state the salt content for a realistic portion, and they do not expect sweet foods such as cake, muffins, puddings and breakfast cereals to contain high levels of salt."

Baby food product launches with a claim of low, no or reduced sodium in the United States increased to 63 in 2007, up from 13 in 2006, according to the Mintel Global New Products Database. Sodium levels in baby food generally are low, according to Jungbunzlauer, Ladenburg, Germany, which offers sub4salt, a sodium-reduction product. The company has seen little interest from baby food manufacturers to further reduce sodium.

Popular sodium-reduction goals for all processed foods are 25%, 33%, 40% and 50%, said George Lutz, quality assurance-technical service manager for Cargill, Minneapolis.

"This decrease depends heavily on the end product, the current sodium levels and how salt is used in formulating and/or enhancing the end product," he said. "Some food processors are looking for a reduced-sodium per cent packaging claim. Others are looking to tweak formulations to lower the sodium per serving, and others are looking for a minor flavor balance."

Cargill offers its SaltWise system that may help reduce sodium from 25% to 50% while maintaining a salty taste in such applications as salted snacks, processed meats, soups and dressings.

25% reduction in bread

The American Bakers Association, Washington, is wary of sodium restrictions placed on bread. A 25% reduction to meet a reduced-sodium requirement could impact flavor dramatically, Lee Sanders, senior vice-president of government relations and public affairs for the A.B.A., said last November at a Food and Drug Administration public hearing.

However, Jungbunzlauer claims its sub4salt, a blend of mineral salts, may be used in place of sodium chloride to reduce sodium in bread by 25% without significant decreases in taste or appearance.

Replacing sodium chloride with potassium chloride in bread may affect flavor, Ms. Sanders said. TasteEssentials, a line of flavor modifiers from Givaudan Flavors, Vernier, Switzerland, addresses that problem.

"Our recent developments have focused on modifying salty taste perception without the use of potassium chloride," said Jon Seighman, applications director for Givaudan Flavors, which has a U.S. office in Cincinnati. "Sodium reduction of 25%, without the use of potassium chloride, is within reach with our recent innovations for most bakery applications."

Cal-Rise, a slow-acting, calcium-based leavening acid from Innophos, Inc., Cranbury, N.J., reduces sodium in such applications as snack cakes, muffins and pancakes.

Three protein types

The level of sodium reduction in processed protein products will depend on the products, which could be divided into three categories, said Gene Brotsky, in technical service for Innophos. Innophos offers Curavis So-Lo 93 to enhance processed meat and poultry without compromising taste.

In the high salt category of cured meat, salt content is traditionally 2% to 2.5%, which makes major sodium reduction difficult. In the medium-salt category, which includes processed poultry loaves and processed turkey breast, salt range is typically between 1.25% to 1.75%. Curavis So-Lo 93 may reduce the sodium content by more than half when combined with a lower sodium salt.

The final category includes products such as roast beef and seafood where salt makes up less than 1% of the product. Curavis So-Lo 93 substituted for a typical sodium phosphate can achieve substantial sodium reductions.

Using sub4salt in hams at 2.2% instead of sodium chloride at 2% may lead to a 30% reduction in sodium, according to Jungbunzlauer.

Artisan salts add spice to menu items

Artisan salts, including sea salts, have made inroads onto upscale restaurant menus, and at least one sea salt may play a supporting role in reducing sodium in retail foods. Artisan salts such as fleur de sel, sel gris, Hawaiian pink and Himalayan black made the 2008 Trend Watch list from Andrew Freeman & Co., a hospitality and restaurant consulting firm in San Francisco.

Salts placed 10th as a "hot" or popular item among 194 food items ranked by 1,282 members of the American Culinary Federation in a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, Washington. The survey listed sea, smoked, colored and kosher as examples of salts that may add interest to a restaurant item.

Artisan salt suppliers often promote the origin of their products. Himalayan Pink Salt, a fossilized marine salt, has been trapped in the Himalaya mountains for millions of years in altitudes of about 10,000 feet, said Clair Bernole, executive product manager for BrandStorm, a Los Angeles-based importer of Himalayan Pink Salt. Besides sodium, Himalayan Pink Salt is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper and iron with the iron giving the salt its pink color.

Such restaurants as La Cachette in Los Angeles and Lili’s Café in Santa Monica, Calif., feature Himalayan Pink Salt. At the retail level, bars and bonbons from Vosges Haut-Chocolat, Chicago, include the salt.

"The quantities of pink salt used in other products is pretty small and would not influence the price of the product much," Ms. Bernole said. "Since Himalayan Pink Salt is usually used in high quality natural and gourmet products, a higher price is usually justified."

Mineral Resources International, Ogden, Utah, offers artisan salts from the Great Salt Lake in Utah, where the waters of melting snow wash over mountains and draw minerals and trace minerals from the soil. Rivers and streams transport the minerals into the Great Salt Lake.

Food service operators and retail food manufacturers may use FortiFlavor, a low-sodium sea salt from Mineral Resources International, said Val Anderson, executive vice-president. FortiFlavor may provide a better balance of sodium, potassium and magnesium than traditional salt (sodium chloride), he said. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommends people consume 4,700 mg of potassium per day.

Mr. Anderson said he encourages chefs and food scientists to view FortiFlavor as a spice. For example, a decrease in flavor may occur when potassium chloride and sodium chloride are mixed together to reduce sodium. The addition of FortiFlavor may boost the salt’s taste back to its original level.

FortiFlavor may be significantly more expensive than sodium chloride, but a company’s flavor experts may find a way to add a small amount of FortiFlavor to achieve the desired taste. Mineral Resources International offers guideline recipes for different foods, but some experimentation probably will be required, Mr. Anderson said.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, February 5, 2008, starting on Page 35. Click here to search that archive.

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