Manufacturers urged to detail potassium and phosphates on labels

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Potassium

Researchers have urged food manufacturers to label additives in enhanced meat products if they include potassium or phosphates due to their potential risk to dialysis patients.

Dialysis patients must avoid overconsumption of either mineral – potassium can lead to irregular heart beats or even heart attacks, while phosphorous can lead to problems with calcium absorption and heart function.

The report, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, found that many enhanced meat products do not mention the inclusion of potassium or phosphate on the product label, nor is it always a requirement.

‘Enhanced’ meat has been a growing source of these minerals since a 1982 ruling regarding the additives from the Food Safety Inspection Service, claim the authors.

Enhancing meat involves injecting it with a solution containing water, sodium and potassium salts, particularly phosphates, as well as antioxidants and flavorings. When meat is enhanced in this way, the additives are required to be labeled, although they are not quantified. However, if meat is marinated in a ‘natural broth’, it could contain high levels of phosphorous – and the manufacturer is not required to list it on the label.


In addition, the authors wrote: “Although much attention has been paid to the added sodium and phosphorus in processed foods, none has been paid to the added potassium. Our data indicate that more attention is warranted.”

It is often difficult for renal patients to avoid potassium, which their kidneys are unable to filter, because it is found at high levels in many common foods, including bananas, tomatoes and potatoes. Its inclusion, unlabeled, in enhanced meat products presents a real risk that they could exceed the recommended restricted intake level, claim the authors.

For the purposes of this study, the researchers bought 36 uncooked meat and poultry products from several different retailers and analyzed their potassium and phosphate content. They attempted to buy both enhanced and natural versions of the same product. They found that of 25 enhanced products, eight did not list the additives on the food label.

Their concern is that the minerals’ content is so high in some of these products that it would constitute a risk for a dialysis patient, although if they were affected, it would be unlikely that the source would be identified.

The authors conclude: “The burden imposed on those who seek to limit dietary phosphorus and potassium could be ameliorated by more complete food labeling by manufacturers.”

Source: Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

Vol. 4: 1370–1373, 2009. doi: 10.2215/CJN.02830409

“Phosphorus and Potassium Content of Enhanced Meat and

Poultry Products: Implications for Patients Who Receive


Authors: Richard A. Sherman and Ojas Mehta

Related topics R&D Food safety and labeling

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