IFT Calls Upon Federal Government to Increase Funding for Sodium Reduction Research, Consumer Education Also Needed Because Salt Substitutes Are Not Compliant with “Clean Label”

December 20, 2016

CHICAGO—In written comments submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is calling upon the federal government to increase public funding of research for developing reduced-sodium foods. These comments, based on insight from IFT members, were in response to a question posed by the FDA that asked what specific research needs or technological advances could enhance the food industry’s ability to meet the new voluntary sodium reduction goals. 
Sodium chloride, commonly known as table salt, is a critical food component that contributes to food safety, shelf-life and sensory qualities such as savory flavor and food texture. In an effort to maintain these attributes in reduced-sodium foods, food scientists use a variety of technologies and formulations. Although food scientists have been able to achieve sodium reductions in a variety of food products through innovations, sodium reduction continues to be a challenging endeavor.  
“Public investment in research to understand and develop evidence-based approaches for sodium reduction is minimal.  Few government programs fund basic research in food science, food technology, and emerging technologies, compared to the investments in basic research focused on developing new pharmacological approaches to reduce the incidence and consequences of diet-related chronic diseases,” said IFT President John Coupland, PhD, CFS.  
In addition to addressing the challenges related to the functional roles of sodium in food, food scientists and technologists are also faced with the challenge of simultaneously lowering salty taste preferences while developing acceptable salt substitutes, thereby keeping salty taste at current levels. A critical component to reducing sodium content is potassium because it contributes to the saltiness flavor while also helping to lower blood pressure by helping to ease tension in blood vessel walls.
Food scientists are incorporating potassium along with calcium into formulations for this reason, however, above certain levels, it also can have a metallic or bitter aftertaste. In order to help mask the flavor profile, additional compounds are used. “Clean” labeling is important to many consumers, and salt substitutes such as potassium chloride are considered “unfriendly.”  This is why there is also a need for consumer education about processing and technological advancements related to sodium reduction.
Read the full comments here 

About IFT 
Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food Technologists is committed to advancing the science of food. Our non-profit scientific society—more than 17,000 members from more than 90 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professionals from academia, government and industry. For more information, please visit ift.org.