Nestlé, Unilever & suppliers push EU for potassium chloride label change

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/mirzamlk
© GettyImages/mirzamlk
Manufacturers should be able to label potassium chloride, used to reduce sodium levels in food, with more consumer-friendly names such as potassium salt, argues a joint position paper.

According to the paper, which cites the results of a survey of over 2,400 consumers in five EU member states, the term potassium chloride is ‘chemical-sounding​.

Its signatories are therefore calling on the EU to allow manufacturers to label potassium chloride with a customary or descriptive name if it is used as a salt reduction tool. They suggest the terms ‘potassium salt’, ‘mineral salt (potassium)’ and ‘potassium mineral salt’, which showed higher acceptance rates in the survey, and are "more appropriate​".

The position paper​ is signed by representatives from Nestlé and Unilever as well as several trade groups: bakery association AIBI; processed meat association, Clitravi; and Culinaria Europe, which represents manufacturers of soups, sauces and condiments.

Potassium chloride suppliers NuTek Food Science and Jungbunzlauer also signed.

President and chief operating officer of NuTek Food Science, Brian Boor, told FoodNavigator the paper was sent to the European Commission earlier this week "to formally initiate the process of allowing for the labeling of potassium salt within the EU".

The companies say that the suggested names will appropriately inform consumers about the higher potassium levels while not discouraging purchase based on low consumer acceptability of the ingredient.

“This will enable the continuous sodium reduction efforts of the European food industry, while at the same time supporting World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations on increasing potassium intake.

They note that other additives have various appellations depending on their function in food.

“Ascorbic acid used as food additive is labelled as ‘antioxidant ascorbic acid’ [but] when used as a Vitamin it is labelled as ‘Vitamin C’. Beta-carotene used as a food additive is labelled ‘colour beta-carotene’ [but] when used as a vitamin it is labelled as ‘pro-vitamin A’.”

They conclude: “[The] decision on which labelling term is considered most appropriate within the context of country regulations and interpretations is the decision of the food business operator, based on product positioning and the relevant target consumer.” 

A 2005 opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said that long-term intake of about 3 g potassium per day as potassium chloride supplements, in addition to intake from foods, does not cause adverse effects in healthy adults.

Individuals suffering from renal dysfunction or chronic kidney disease (CKD), however, must monitor and limit their potassium intake.

The signatories of the position paper say that appropriate labelling of potassium chloride will also allow these individuals to make informed choices.

UK public health campaign group Consensus Action on Salt (CASH) has come out in favour of the additive in the past, ​arguing that potassium-based salt replacers are “a short-term solution to cut sodium levels in food”.

Current EU labelling requirements for potassium are voluntary, and may be labelled on packaged food nutrition tables if it is present "in significant amounts"​​​, with the nutrient reference value for potassium set at 2000 mg.

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Potassium vs. sodium or salt vs. chloride.

Posted by Hector A. Iglesias CFS,

Replacing potassium salt for potassium chloride seems as the problem is the word chloride. As in the previous comment, chemistry is very precise when using names, and a salt is the reaction product of an acid and a base. Therefore the salt of "potassium salt" may be any potassium salt as for example potassium cynide. Would the consumer be comfortable with this? I suppose not. Let us not reinvent the wheel.

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Potassium salt?

Posted by Giovanna Serenelli,

Why change? Potassium chloride is a potassium salt, yes however, it is only one of about fifty potassium salts. It seems a way to confuse consumers, that is, the exact opposite of the clarity and transparency sought by the consumer. In chemistry the names are precise. Shameful!

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