The next steps in sodium reduction

by Jeff Gelski
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Leatherhead Food Research in the United Kingdom in July issued results of a project called “Evaluation of technological approaches to salt reduction.” It found promise in such areas as research on restructuring salt crystals, the use of flavor enhancers and potential further reductions in baked foods.

While the Food and Drink Federation and the British Retail Consortium jointly commissioned the project, it touched on many sodium reduction techniques also used in North America.

“The emerging technologies and ingredients may help companies who have exhausted the use of current options, but their effectiveness will need assessing on an individual product basis,” The Leatherhead report said. “The future research highlights how salt reduction work is still an active field. However, these solutions may not be available for some time.”

Leatherhead is conducting a study to evaluate micro- and nano-technologies for enhanced ingredient functionality, which then may assist in sodium reduction efforts. The project, scheduled to end in 2013, will investigate ways to alter the size of ingredients and assess how the alteration influences behavior in food products.

Eminate Ltd., a subsidiary of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, has developed such salt reduction technology. Called Soda-Lo, it changes the structure of salt crystals to create free-flowing, microscopic hollow balls with a shelf life of 18 months, according to Leatherhead. The particles deliver an intense, salty hit on the taste buds, which means Soda-Lo may be used at lower levels than salt to achieve a desired taste level.

Soda-Lo already is being used commercially in bread, pies, pastries and pizza bases in the United Kingdom. It has been shown to reduce salt levels by as much as 70% in bread. Another Soda-Lo project involves cheddar cheese.

London-based Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. in October 2011 signed an exclusive, worldwide license agreement with Eminate Ltd. for Soda-Lo. Tate & Lyle plans to commercialize the Soda-Lo technology on a global basis, which includes manufacturing, product development, sales and marketing. Tate & Lyle expects to launch a range of products later this year, Javed Ahmen, chief executive, said when the company gave financial results May 31.

In North America, Minneapolis-based Cargill already offers FlakeSelect, a process that physically modifies single or multiple ingredients. The thin flakes offer high solubility and have a large surface area. They adhere to topical applications such as salted snacks, cereal, baked foods and meat seasoning blends.

Cargill’s Alberger brand flake salt, meanwhile, involves multi-faceted crystals created from a process that starts with a hollow pyramid shape. The crystals have a large surface area and low bulk density. They are soluble and have the ability to blend. Alberger salt adds a flavor burst when used in topical applications.

In baked foods, the Leatherhead report featured Kudos potassium bicarbonate from Kudos Blends, Ltd., Worcestershire, England. The ingredient has a fine particle size achieved through a unique milling process. It is water-repellent, which improves the stability of the powder. It has been shown to reduce the salt content of baked products by up to 50%.

In North America, Innophos, Inc., Cranbury, N.J., offers Cal-Rise, a sodium-free, calcium-based leavening acid that may be used in baked foods. Cal-Rise is used in InnovaFree baking powders from Clabber Girl. ICL Performance Products, St. Louis, offers four grades of leavening acids under the Levona brand that have been shown to work in the formulation of low-sodium baked foods. Church & Dwight, Inc., Princeton, N.J., offers Arm & Hammer Flow K potassium bicarbonate that has been shown to work in place of sodium bicarbonate in the leavening of bread, cakes, pancakes, muffins and cookies.

Nu-Tek Food Science, Minnetonka, Minn., has developed a technology that minimizes the metallic note of potassium chloride to give a similar perception to that of salt. It may be used in baked foods as well as other products such as meat, poultry and cheese.

A study on double-split, bran-dusted hamburger buns featured the Nu-Tek technology. It found no significant differences in overall appearance, salt flavor, texture, off flavor or overall flavor acceptability when compared to conventional buns. Sample buns were produced at a commercial bakery and sent to the University of Nebraska for sensory analysis. The control buns were produced with 675 mg of sodium per 100 grams, and the buns with 30% reduced sodium were produced with 475 mg of sodium per 100 grams.

Turning to flavor enhancers, Leatherhead said they work by activating receptors in the mouth and throat, which helps compensate for the salt reduction. Amino acids, monosodium glutamate (MSG), lactates, yeast products and other flavorings have been shown to enhance salt’s taste.

Flavor enhancers that create umami, or savory taste, increasingly are used to compensate for lower salt content in processed foods, according to the Leatherhead report. Glutamate, which triggers umami, is found in tomatoes and onions.

The Leatherhead report mentioned Sante from LycoRed Ltd., Beer Sheva, Israel. The natural extract from tomato delivers umami taste in savory food products, including meat and meat analogues, soups, seasonings, sauces and snacks. Sante allows for a reduction of up to 30% in salt levels with no detrimental effects on taste.

The Leatherhead report also mentioned yeast extract-based ingredients from DSM Food Specialties that have been shown to reduce sodium in soups, sauces, ready-to-eat meals, meat products, bakery and seasonings.

In North America, Kikkoman Sales USA, Inc., San Francisco, offers dehydrated natural flavor enhancers that amplify savory umami and allow for a salt reduction of 30% to 50%. The company also has Less Sodium PTN Soy Sauce that contains 45% less sodium than conventional soy sauce.

Survey shows American consumers’ views on sodium

WASHINGTON — The 2012 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation included findings on Americans’ strategies in reducing sodium consumption. The survey involved 1,057 people ages 18 to 80.

When asked to what extent they tried to consume or avoid sodium, 53% said they tried to limit or avoid it while 35% said they do not pay attention to it, 5% said they were not sure, 4% said they tried to consume sodium and 3% said they just tried to be aware.

When asked what they do regularly in regard to sodium consumption, 57% said they limit or never add salt to food. Other answers were prepare more meals at home to control sodium intake (38%), use herbs, spices or other salt alternatives (38%), purchased products labeled as low sodium (37%), eat smaller portions to control sodium intake (17%), ask that food be prepared without added salt when eating out (7%) and none of the above (22%).

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