‘Potassium salt’ is a better term than ‘potassium chloride salt,’ Nestlé USA, Kraft Heinz et al tell FDA

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Campbell Soup: “The problem with ‘potassium chloride salt’ is that it contains the word ‘chloride,’ which the evidence shows is alarming and confusing to consumers."​ (Picture: Gettyimages: Goran13)
Campbell Soup: “The problem with ‘potassium chloride salt’ is that it contains the word ‘chloride,’ which the evidence shows is alarming and confusing to consumers."​ (Picture: Gettyimages: Goran13)

Related tags: Potassium chloride, Sodium reduction

Food industry stakeholders have pushed back hard on the FDA’s proposal to permit the term ‘potassium chloride salt’ on food labels as an alternative to ‘potassium chloride,’ arguing that anything with the word ‘chloride’ in it is not consumer-friendly and will not support the FDA’s sodium reduction goals.

In public comments​ submitted to the FDA, leading food manufacturers and consumer health advocates instead urged the agency to back ‘potassium salt,’ the term originally suggested in a citizen’s petition​​​ filed by NuTek Food Science in 2016 as an alternative to the 'chemical-sounding' potassium chloride.

The FDA - which acknowleged that wider use of potassium chloride as a salt replacer could help it achieve its dual goals of reducing sodium intakes and increasing potassium intakes - responded to NuTek’s petition in May 2019 with draft guidance​​​ proposing the term ‘potassium chloride salt’ as a compromise. Given that consumer suspicion of the term 'chloride' is what prompted calls for a labeling change in the first place, its proposal baffled many observers, however, with a flurry of big CPG companies urging it to reconsider.

Citing a consumer survey​ from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation which found that shoppers rated ‘potassium salt’ as safer, healthier and tastier than ‘potassium chloride salt,’ successive commentators urged the FDA to opt for the former.

The one exception was salt maker Morton Salt, which urged the FDA to scrap both terms and stick with potassium chloride:

Salt is the common or usual name for sodium chloride, and potassium chloride is the common or usual name for potassium chloride that consumers recognize on our food nutritional labels and that is accepted by industry.”

It added: “It is very concerning that the proposed naming convention for ‘potassium chloride salt’ could set a precedent for renaming other non-sodium food salts, such as calcium chloride and magnesium chloride, in addition to many non-chloride based food salts such as sodium citrate and sodium lactate.

NuTek Food Science​​​​​ filed a citizen’s petition​​​​ with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2016 urging the agency to permit the term 'potassium salt' on US food labels.

A friendlier name would demystify the ingredient and help the industry achieve the dual goals of lowering sodium and increasing potassium intakes, according to NuTek​​​​​​​ - which has patented a process that suppresses potassium chloride's metallic taste without requiring companies to add expensive flavor masking ingredients – and says consumer research shows that shoppers view ‘potassium salt’ more favorably than ‘potassium chloride.’

Here is a selection of comments from key stakeholders below:

Nestlé USA: On all attributes tested - 'more appetizing,' 'less processed,’ ‘healthier,’ and 'safer to consume’ - potassium salt outperformed potassium chloride.”

American Bakers Association:“The use of the more cumbersome name, ‘potassium chloride salt,’ is unlikely to encourage consumers to purchase and consume such products, and therefore is less likely to achieve the goal of moving the needle on sodium reduction.”

SNAC International: “Adding the term ‘salt’ to clarify that potassium chloride is a salt, but maintaining the word ‘chloride,’ would not make the ingredient more appealing to consumers looking for clean labels, nor would it encourage manufacturers to use the ingredient as a sodium reduction tool.”

North American Meat Institute​: “A more complex name like ‘potassium chloride salt’ is counter to consumer demand for clean labels. Absent a consumer education component about the meaning of the acceptable nomenclature, there is little evidence that the alternate term will reduce sodium consumption.”

CSPI: “We believe the term ‘potassium salt’ will be more effective than ‘potassium chloride salt’ at promoting consumer understanding, facilitating sodium reductions in processed foods, and improving public health.”

World Action on Salt and Health​: “If sodium chloride can be termed salt, with no confusion to consumers, there is no reason why potassium chloride cannot be termed potassium salt to increase acceptability and the likelihood of its use to reduce sodium and increase potassium levels in food products.”

International Dairy Foods Association​: “If FDA wants to promote the use of potassium chloride as a partial substitute for sodium chloride, the term ‘potassium salt’ will advance the agency’s goals more effectively than ‘potassium chloride salt.’”

 Kraft Heinz​: “Ingredients that consumers see as more ‘chemical’ sounding are less likely to be used. While ‘potassium’ and ‘salt’ are terms that consumers recognize, ‘chloride’ carries a more negative perception, and may result in consumer avoidance if it appears on a label… ‘Potassium salt’ accurately describes potassium chloride, and includes two components that consumers recognize and do not view negatively.”

Campbell Soup:​ “The problem with ‘potassium chloride salt’ is that it contains the word ‘chloride,’ which the evidence shows is alarming and confusing to consumers."​​

Nutek president and COO Brian Boor​: ​​We strongly urge the FDA to amend its proposed draft guidance to reflect 'potassium salt' as the alternative to 'potassium chloride.'”​​

Read all the comments HERE​​ (the comment period has now ended).

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