Scientists at Top Institute Food and Nutrition (TIFN) in the Netherlands have developed a technique to reduce salt without adding sodium substitutes, or taste or aroma additives.
Speaking to FoodNavigator.com, Professor Rob Hamer, TIFN’s scientific director explained that the ‘smart salt distribution’ technology works by blending a high salt fraction with a low salt fraction. This creates different layers with different salt content.
“It has to do with the ability of people to measure difference rather than absolute levels,” he explained. “By varying layer thickness we could achieve the sensation of 2 per cent bread, for example, while the actual salt level is 1.5 per cent,” he said.
The patented technology is the result of new insights into how consumers perceive the salt taste, said Prof Hamer.
While the technology was initially applied to bread and bakery products, the Dutch manufacturer Vion Food Group has applied it to bacon to produce low-salt rashers, with an eye on the UK market. It could also be applied to cheese or snacks, said TIFN.
“We believe our findings represent a significant breakthrough in the battle to reduce salt intake in the general population,” says Prof Hamer.
“It is not an easy task for the food industry to reduce salt, because there is no real alternative for salt as a tastant. This new technology will enable the food industry to lower the salt content of many products,” he added.
Prof Hamer said that the technology is currently being tested in the Netherlands by both artisanal and industrial bakers alongside other salt reduction strategies.
Salt – some, but not too much
Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, vastly exceeds recommendations from WHO/FAO of 5 grams per day to control blood pressure levels and reduce hypertension prevalence and related health risks in populations.
In countries like the UK, Ireland and the USA, over 80 per cent of salt intake comes from processed food, and people therefore do not realize they are consuming it.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set targets of 6 grams per day. A recent study from researchers at St. George's University of London appeared to support the clinical relevance of such recommendations.
The study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension found that reducing salt intake from 9.7 to 6.5 grams per day reduced average blood pressure from 146/91 to 141/88 mmHg within six weeks.
Scientists from TIFN have also shown that the same technology can be applied to reducing sugar content of food products without loss of taste.