NEW ORLEANS – Food manufacturers face a tremendous challenge in lowering the amount of salt in foods while maintaining taste and consumer loyalty, according to symposium panelists at the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo®.
While humans crave and need salt intake, current consumption is far ahead of what is needed, said Russell Keast, Ph.D., associate professor at the Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University in Australia. While Americans require only 2.5 grams of salt each day, they consume, on average, 9.5 grams primarily from processed and restaurant foods.
Too much salt consumption has been linked to hypertension, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Fifty percent of consumers intend to decrease salt intake, but most don’t want to sacrifice taste, said Janice Johnson, Ph.D., of the Salt Division at Cargill, Inc.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for America recommend that daily salt intake be dropped to 2,300 milligrams or about one teaspoon each day. Keast said that significant sodium reduction in food products may not be possible without government enforcement, as manufacturers that maintain high salt levels will continue to have an unfair advantage with consumers.
“Taste is the number one driver of food purchasing decisions,” said John E. Hayes, Ph.D., assistant professor of food science and director of the Sensory Evaluation Center at Pennsylvania State University. Salt not only enhances food flavor, but also dulls the bitter taste in many foods.
“Salts block bitterness which is why we like it,” said Hayes.
Johnson also said that salt is an important preservative that inhibits microbial growth in foods, lowers water activity and preserves flavor in foods.
Chris Loss, Ph.D., of the Department of Menu Research and Development at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), said chefs are beginning to experiment with the use of other spices and ingredients to enhance flavor, and/or “distract the palate” from lower amounts of salt. Sea salt, which has more than 30 percent less sodium, is also a viable alternative.
Any long-term solution “will be dependent on desired attributes – taste, texture, food safety; the type of food product; and cost,” said Johnson.
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.
For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit ift.org.
© 2011 Institute of Food Technologists