The review, published in Trends in Food Science & Technology, suggests that further knowledge is needed regarding the effects on the quality of cheese from different processing techniques that may reduce salt levels. The levels of salt that are suitable for consumer acceptance, and understanding of consumer perceptions of low salt products, may help to better market reduced salt products.
“The introduction of products with reduced content of sodium must be carefully researched so that the performance and taste of the salt reduced products is similar to that of the conventional food,” said the authors, led by Adriano Cruz, from the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil.
“By adopting this principle of development and marketing, it would prevent situations that are happening in countries where consumers are exposed to several ill-fated experiences with light and diet products, causing a suspicion of genuine products,” they explained.
Need for salt
Cruz and colleagues said that salt reduction in cheese represents a great challenge for the industry because salt has specific functions and influences for taste, body, texture and shelf life extension.
The salting of cheese is an essential step during processing. In this step salt is added to the cheese curd to reduce the activity of the starter culture and to boost the flavour of the product.
The authors said that salt exerts many important effects on cheese.
“It is the main determining agent of water activity in the product and, consequently, exerts control over microbial growth, enzymatic activity and biochemical changes during the maturation process,” they said.
The potential reduction of salt in cheese therefore depends on factors associated with the nature of the product, its composition, the type of processing, and the conditions of manufacturing, they explained.
According to the authors, while industry and researchers are joining forces to produce table cheeses with low sodium content, it may be “that the best alternative would be to produce cheese with reduced sodium content for use as an ingredient.”
The omission of emulsifying salts in processed cheese may reduce levels of sodium by between 20 and 40 per cent, but the authors said that cheese processed without emulsifying salts generally suffers from reductions in textural and structural properties.
One possible solution to this is the use of hydrocolloids as replacements for traditional emulsifying salts, which the authors noted has recently shown promise producing acceptable cheeses.
The partial or total substitution of sodium chloride with potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium chloride, has also been used for low salt cheeses.
Cruz and colleagues said that although the results from such replacements “are mostly positive … at times there is a sour residual taste resulting from the substitution of sodium chloride.”
“It is clear that even for cheese with reduced fat content, as for standard cheese, salt is important for acceptance,” said the authors.
Cruz and colleagues said that taste is often the most important, but not the only factor driving food choice, noting that health considerations are becoming increasingly important.
They explained that due to the “increased individual’s need for health management using commercial food”, the market for health food – including low salt products – has shown high growth worldwide.
“In this context …blood pressure is generally a benefit of high interest among consumers and it should be explored by the food industry to help convince consumers to purchase low sodium processed foods,” said the authors.
Source: Trends in Food Science & Technology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2011.02.003
“Cheeses With Reduced Sodium Content: Effects On Functionality, Public Health Benefits And Sensory Properties”
Authors: A.G. Cruz, J.A.F. Faria, F. Trigo, R.M.S. Celeghini, D. Granato, N.P. Shah