However, total removal of salt led to significant deterioration of the dough and bread quality, write researchers from University College Cork in this month’s Food Research International.
“Omission of salt resulted in uneven crumb structure and high crumb hardness on day 5 post-baking, however these effects were not present when salt was included in the formulation, even at low levels of addition, i.e. 0.6 or 0.3 per cent,” wrote the researchers, led by Professor Elke Arendt from the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences.
“The results of our study indicate that the production of bread containing lower salt levels is technologically feasible, but that the taste of the bread needs to be improved.”
Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but campaigners for salt reduction, like the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) consider the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, far too high.
The pressure has been mounting on food manufacturers to reduce the salt content of their foods and the UK's food standards agency (FSA) recommendation of six grams of salt per day for the general population is understood to be more a realistic target for the next five years than the ideal healthy limit.
The UK baking sector has made significant progress towards meeting the FSA’s level of 1.1 grams of salt per 100g for bread. Despite the progress, CASH published a report in 2007 that found that over 35 per cent of commercial bread in the UK did not meet FSA targets for salt levels.
According to the new Irish study, which based its salt level on the Irish equivalent of the FSA, the FSAI, reducing salt to a level of only 0.3 per cent is technologically feasible.
At such a low level, the researchers noted that this did result in any “major structural changes”, and that the final bread quality was not affected, including the volume, and the bake-loss or moisture-loss.
“The results of our study confirmed the role of salt in providing taste, affecting yeast activity, strengthening the gluten network and thus the gas retention of dough,” wrote the researchers.
“The main outcome of this work is that no technological difficulties were encountered in the pilot scale production of breads with reduced salt levels,” wrote Prof Arendt and her co-workers.
“Further studies are required to investigate if a reduction of salt in bread might also lead to a reduction in the microbial shelf life of these products,” they wrote.
“Studies focused on the improvements of bread aroma and shelf life are currently ongoing,” they added.
Source: Food Research International
August 2009, Volume 42, Issue 7, Pages 885-891
“Fundamental studies on the reduction of salt on dough and bread characteristics”
Authors: E.J. Lynch, F. Dal Bello, E.M. Sheehan, K.D. Cashman, E.K. Arendt