Salt substitute masks bitterness, claims firm

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Potassium chloride, Taste

A new potassium chloride salt blend featuring a proprietary
formulation could help food makers cut salt levels without
compromising taste.

Prime Favorites claims that its new product, which has been specially formulated to be used in food preparation, represents a significant advance in the elimination, or substantial reduction, of sodium in prepared and packaged foods.

It contains NeutralFres, a natural ingredient formula, which removes the metallic, bitter taste of potassium chloride while maintaining a similar taste to sodium-based salt.

There is no question that salt consumption in the American diet needs to be reduced. One in three Americans regularly consumes more salt than is recommended, and most of this is in processed food. Food manufacturers have therefore found themselves under growing pressure to find ways of reducing salt, and the market for healthy alternatives to salt is beginning to look very attractive.

Health officials in United States have urged the reduction, or elimination, of sodium in the diet since it has been identified as a significant risk factor in developing high blood pressure and subsequent heart disease. At the same time, The National Academy of Sciences (NAS, Washington) recommended an increase of potassium intake to 4,700 mg per day based upon the evidence of potassium's role in controlling hypertension and preventing stroke.

The problem however, has been developing salt substitutes that actually taste good. Taste remains a dominant concern in determining consumer preference, and poor salt imitations have led to a number of discontinued product lines.

The tricky issue of finding a palatable low-sodium alternative, a subject that was tackled at the recent IFT conference in New Orleans, is that the salty taste is physically unique. Taste receptors inside the human tongue require the shape and size of the sodium ion in order to register a salty taste.

And despite its bad press, salt has a number of distinct characteristics that make it extremely attractive to food makers. Apart from being the world's oldest preservative, it can block bitterness in foods, and humans have an innate liking of salt, related to a specific body need, that makes salty snacks attractive.

Consumers, used to salty snacks and salt-laced ready meals, are therefore reluctant to buy products that do not conform to contemporary tastes.

Prime Favorites however believes it has cracked the problem. It recently announced successful results in blending its NeutralFres with potassium chloride, and has now developed its potassium chloride salt blend into a finished product.

Unlike traditional masking agents, the Prime Favorites​ claims that NeutralFres naturally neutralizes the off-flavors of potassium chloride. This provides prepared food producers and consumers with a substantial advantage in eliminating excessive sodium intake without sacrificing taste.

The launch of Prime Favorite's NeutralFres-based solutions comes at a time when the salt content of food has never been under such scrutiny. According to a recent CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) report, there are huge disparities between brands when it comes to salt content.

The organization analyzed the labels of more than 500 food items in 20 categories and ranked them according to sodium content. For instance, among brands of diced canned tomatoes, CSPI says that Hunt's Original has almost twice as much sodium (310 milligrams per 100 grams of product) as Contadina Roma Style (160 mg per 100 g). However, Contadina Roma Style tomato paste has more than three times as much sodium (910 mg per 100 g) as Hunt's (270 mg per 100 g).

As a result, the organization is urging Congress to create a new Division of Sodium Reduction within the FDA that could encourage food companies to use less salt. In the United Kingdom, where salt reduction has been a major priority for that country's Food Standards Agency, some food products, such as Kraft's Lunchables, have less sodium there than they do in the United States.

Related topics: R&D, Preservatives and acidulants

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