Large-scale salt reduction efforts are being encouraged on a global basis, as governments seek to reduce population-wide salt intake. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that Europeans eat too much salt, at about 8-12 g per day, and it recommends that people consume no more than 5 g per day.
However, apart from issues of taste, texture and colour, salt also has an impact on the growth of bacteria responsible for food spoilage, so it is imperative that food manufacturers ensure there is no change in food safety when cutting salt content.
This latest study, from researchers at the University of Limerick, found that reducing salt by up to 50% had no effect on the microbiological quality of ready meals for broth. No difference was noted in quality when salt was at concentrations of 3% or less – which is about the average concentration of salt in commercially available ready meals, the researchers said.
At this concentration, the researchers said they observed ‘little inhibition’ of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, except for E. coli in one ready meal variety with the highest salt content. However, the inhibitive effect was only slight.
“This study may have signiﬁcance in the manufacture of reduced salt foods where concerns regarding the impact of salt reduction on microbial quality may preclude a meaningful lowering of added salt levels,” the authors wrote.
“Data suggest that a large-scale salt reduction program is technically feasible for these particular products, although a case by case investigation is required to ensure all low salt foods are comparable, in terms of microbial safety with commercially available regular salt counterparts,” they added.
Source: Journal of Food Safety
“The effect of salt reduction on the growth of food spoilage bacteria in model broth systems and salt-adjusted ready meals”
Authors: Edel Durack, Mercedes Alonso-Gomez and Martin G. Wilkinson