February 15, 2014

Commercial Foods Industry Messing with Salt, Again

Because of government, public health, and professional organizations applying pressures on the food manufacturers to reduce sodium intake, the food industry is experimenting with salt alternatives and forms of salt to reduce sodium intake. How will this fare in the long-term? Even now, consumers are cautious about buying low sodium, no sodium, and reduced sodium products because they claim this sacrifices flavor.

As a result, food companies are finding less drastic ways to reduce sodium in foods without alerting consumers. This involves stopping labeling claims on packages and rebranding products to emphasize low sodium. The answer it appears is to maximize how salt in the product interacts with the tongue. Increasing the boldness of salt's flavor can be done by using different crystal sizes and shapes as found in varieties of Kosher salts, sea salts, and specialty salts. This is being tried by increasing salt's surface area and reducing its general density for products like chips, crackers, and some baked goods. Spanish researchers have found a potential use of newly developed hollow salt microspheres on commonly eaten foods could reduce sodium intake by approximately nine percent.

Several companies are also developing products with potassium chloride in combination with salt in order to reduce sodium in foods while masking the metallic taste that can sometimes go along with potassium chloride. Applications include salad dressing, mayonnaise, processed meat and poultry products, cheese and dairy products, baked goods and snacks, as well as prepared meals and entrees in restaurant chains. The next step when reducing sodium and finding substitutes is to work on savory notes to enhance salt’s flavor using glutamate-containing ingredients such as glutamate-rich yeast and mushroom extracts.” More on this below.

This is somewhat humorous, one company is adding color to the salt with the use of fruits and vegetables to show consumers how much salt they are adding to food. Innovation may be taking its toll as some are using hot sauce, soy sauce, adding smoke flavors to salts, and dairy product solids to foods. Reducing sodium to a given product clearly will depend on the functionality of salt in the product.

I think it will become wise, if not mandatory, for all consumers to read the label and ingredient's sections on food containers to avoid some of the problems the food industry will be causing. I urge everyone to be cautious with foods containing potassium chloride because of consuming an excess of potassium. Please read my blog here on the potential interactions and problems excess potassium may cause. Always talk with your doctor before this becomes a problem. Potassium is essential for life, but use caution to avoid excess.

In the italicized paragraph above, be careful of products containing glutamate ingredients. Glutamate is a salt of glutamic acid or an ester of glutamic acid. Not everyone can tolerate these, but the number of these people is generally unknown because the medical community generally does not test for these.

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