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Special Edition: Asia

Looking East for salt reduction

By Nathan Gray , 30-Sep-2010
Last updated on 30-Sep-2010 at 11:41 GMT

Reducing salt is a major mandate for companies all over the world, but some of the latest science on salt replacers is coming from the East.

Scientific evidence has repeatedly linked excessive salt consumption to increased risk of high blood pressure a common precursor to heart disease.

But with such high average daily salt (NaCl) intakes in many countries, consumers, governments, and regulatory authorities have begun to put big pressure on food manufacturers to reduce salt content in formulations.

Eastern potential

A study published in the Journal of food Science observed that adding soy sauce to certain foods could enhance the perception of saltiness, enabling food manufacturers to cut salt content without affecting taste.

The study reported that soy sauce was able to reduce the salt content of food products such as salad dressings, soup, and stir-fried pork by up to 50 percent. However, the addition of soy sauce to foods may spell trouble for anyone with wheat intolerances, as wheat is a primary ingredient in the majority of soy sauce products. (Journal of food Science - doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01232.x)

Dried bonito is a stock made from fish and seaweed and is used extensively in Japanese cuisine. Research on bonito found it to enhance the ‘saltiness’ of low sodium foods.

The fish stock was reported to be of potential use “in the development of new ways of preparing palatable salt-reduced foods.” (Journal of Food Science doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01283.x)

Another option in the battle to reduce salt content could be purple bamboo salts, which have been recently reported to improve the chemical and sensory properties of meat products, whilst reducing sodium content.

Bamboo salts are produced by placing sea salt in thick bamboo stubs and baking them, to purify the sea salts and infuse oils from the bamboo. The salts were suggested to improve the formulation of meat, compared to commercially available NaCl. (Meat Science – doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2010.08.001).

A further potential sodium reduction technique is the use of rice vinegar to enhance the perception of salt flavours.

Researchers in Japan investigating interactions between saltiness and acidity suggested that the addition of low concentrations of rice vinegar to food products could be used to reduce salt levels without affecting taste. (Journal of Food Science – doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01116.x).

The use of round salt – a non caking salt product produced by Indian researchers – has also been touted as a potential replacement for commercially available salt in meat and baking products. However, the researchers noted that the differences in taste have yet to be fully studied. (Crystal Growth & Design doi: 10.1021/cg050633v)