Spotlight on salt (Part 1): Government pressure steers reformulation

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12 Feb 2018 --- Salt, sugar and fat long remain to be the perennial villains in the food industry with many food manufacturers and companies looking for healthier ways to reformulate products. Salt is often associated with health conditions, excessive consumption of salt is known to affect heart health and blood pressure, and more recent studies have confirmed that a high-salt diet reduces resting blood flow to the brain and may cause dementia. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the essential minerals in salt can act as important electrolytes in the body. They help with fluid balance, nerve transmission and muscle function. There are often conflicting messages that leaves many consumers questioning: “How much is too much?” and “Should I be concerned about salt consumption?” FoodIngredientsFirst takes a close look at what is happening in the industry.

In the UK, the Food Standards Agency introduced a traffic light system to help consumers eat more healthily and highlight the amount of salt, sugar and saturated fats on packaged foods, which can be a good indicator of how healthy a packaged product actually is. More often than not, seemingly “healthy” food is laden with salt, sugar and saturated fats, that otherwise, UK consumers would not be aware of.


A diet high in sodium and low in potassium raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.5 million deaths could be prevented each year if the global sodium consumption would be reduced to the recommended value maximum of 2g per day which corresponds to 5g of salt per day.


Within food, salt can be an important ingredient for shelf life, stabilization, and more importantly, taste. Pre-packaged goods fit in line with many of today’s consumers, who commute daily for work and have very busy hectic lives. Convenience food options are often the “go-to” for quick lunches and easy dinners, but there are categories in which sodium is used to a high level, in breakfast cereals and bakery items.


Click to Enlarge80 percent of the sodium we eat is in the food we buy, according to Marie Tolkemit, Junior Product Manager of Specialties at Jungbunzlaur. “Looking into statistics it is easy to see that the most sodium we eat comes from processed foods, bakery and meat. So within these categories is the most potential to reduce sodium,” she tells FoodIngredientsFirst.


“We do see a growing governmental pressure to reduce sodium in various countries (e.g. US, Chile, Israel, South Africa, UK) around the globe. In these countries, the governments have already set targets to reduce the sodium intake within their population and the food industry has to follow these targets, in consequence, the awareness to reduce sodium in rising within the population,” she explains.


Next, to these governmental targets, some companies like Nestlé and Mondel─ôz have set their own sodium targets they want to reach within the next years, which they actively communicate to their customers.


“If we look at consumer surveys we can see that low sodium products are after Low sugar and GMO-free the top 3 requested products,” Tolkemit adds.


“If we look at the claims at newly launched products, we find that most of the low sodium products, entering the market are not actively promoted as being lower in sodium. So the industry might fear that the customers think that a product which has lower sodium content is less tasty,” she claims.

 

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Christiane Lippert, Head of Marketing at Lycored
Also speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, Christiane Lippert, Head of Marketing at Lycored said: “Governments and health bodies across the world have prioritized sodium reduction and consumers are responding – more than six in ten Americans have now cut back on foods higher in salt. The pressure to reduce sodium is often seen as a challenge, but it’s a big opportunity to add qualities that appeal to consumers – in particular, improved taste and umami impact.”


“Cardiovascular disease now accounts for around three in ten deaths worldwide – more than any other illness. Given the link between excessive sodium intake and heart disease, sodium reduction isn’t going to fall off the agenda any time soon,” she explains.

 
“Salt and sugar are similar in that they’re both necessary for moderation, but dangerous in excess. Average salt intake worldwide is 9-12 grams per day, which is double the recommended maximum level,” Lippert reveals.


David Hart, Business Unit Director for Salt of The Earth also states that food containing less sodium is unambiguously healthier and helps people reach the WHO recommended intake of 5 grams of salt per day. And according to Hart, it is mostly Western countries that have average consumption levels of almost twice the WHO recommendations.


“As long as sodium/salt consumption is significantly above the WHO recommended intake of 5 grams of salt per day, sodium reduction will be a focus,” he notes. “More than 75 countries have national programs for salt/sodium reduction, and these efforts range from consumer education to maximum sodium limits in food, front-of-package labeling and even tax on high-salt foods. These programs are a catalyst for the industry to find solutions for lower salt products.”


Stay tuned with FoodIngredientsFirst, for Part 2 of this report, available later this week, which will highlight solutions for salt reformulations.


By Elizabeth Green

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