Commercial lasagne produced with reduced salt levels and salt substitutes scored higher on consumer tests than the ‘normal’ salt version, says a new study from Ireland.
Salt reductions of up to 29 per cent were achieved by Irish scientists without affecting the overall taste and saltiness of the finished product, while formulation with salt substitutes like potassium chloride (KCl) could reduce salt levels even further “without compromising consumer acceptability, salty taste and sensory preference for the meal,” they said.
The research also provides a fillip for salt substitute producers and suppliers since concerns related to bitter tastes associated with the use of KCl-based salt substitutes were not observed.
The results, published in the Journal of Foodservice, show the potential for food formulators to meet the stringent demands of national initiatives to reduce the salt content of their products.
In countries like the UK, Ireland and the USA, over 80 per cent of salt intake comes from processed food, and people therefore do not realize they are consuming it. Surveys have shown that food manufacturers, particularly in the UK, have been successful at reducing the salt content of ready meals, previously highlighted as a significant source of the population’s salt intake.
A survey from the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) reported in 2007 that the salt level in UK ready meals is 45 per cent lower than four years previous.
Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but campaigners for salt reduction, like 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.
Researchers led by Michelle Mitchell from the Prepared Foods Department at Ashtown Food Research Centre, Teagasc, obtained commercially-produced lasagne with standard salt levels of 1.05 per cent and reduced salt lasagne with 0.55 per cent NaCl.
The salt content of the reduced salt product was enhanced via the meat sauce layers in order to produce salt levels in the final product of 0.55, 0.65, 0.75 and 0.85 per cent.
In combination with researchers from the University of Limerick, Mitchell and her co-workers found that salt could be cut by 0.3 per cent to achieve salt levels of 0.75 per cent without affecting the sensory profile of the product.
Furthermore, when salt substitutes, particularly KCl were used into the lowest salt lasagne ready meal at a concentration of 0.5 per cent, salt levels could be reduced by a further 0.2 per cent.
“A consumer acceptability trail conducted with 175 consumers found that the low-salt KCl meal was preferred over the control,” said the researchers.
Commenting on the lack on bitterness detected on using the potassium chloride, the researchers noted that the presence “flavour-potent herbs and spices in the lasagne ready meal that may have acted to mask the bitter taste normally associated with the inclusion of KCl”.
“This could therefore be a potential salt substitute used by certain sectors of the foodservice industry, particularly those serving spiced foods.”
Source: Journal of Foodservice
Volume 20, Issue 6, Pages: 298-308
“Sensory acceptability of a reformulated reduced salt frozen ready meal”
Authors: M. Mitchell, N.P. Brunton, M.G. Wilkinson