Complementary Salts

by Laurie Gorton
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Americans consume too much sodium, and most comes from processed foods. Like all food processors, bakers and snack food manufacturers feel pressure from health advocates and government agencies to cut the amount of salt in the form of sodium chloride that they use in their products.

Salt acts as a taste enhancer, but in baked foods, it has additional functions: It helps control water activity, strengthens gluten and regulates yeast activity. When reducing sodium by cutting salt, bakers risk quality problems in finished products. Research shows that salt levels in bread and bun formulas may be cut by 25% (from 2.0%, flour weight basis, to 1.5%) without affecting taste or functional properties. But salt levels may have to go even lower.

Yeast-raised baked foods, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, contribute 7.3% of the 3,400 mg of sodium Americans consume daily, immediately followed by chicken and chicken-mixed dishes at 6.8% and pizza at 6.3%.

How does lower sodium intake translate to yeast-raised baked foods? The target, noted by the American Bakers Association (ABA), is 400 mg of sodium per 100 g of bread (about four slices). This is also the target in the UK, although plans exist to bring this down to 350 mg per 100 g of bread. ABA conducted a market review of sodium levels in bread and buns and found a range of 350 to 700 mg per 100 g. There’s work to do.

To qualify for a low-sodium claim, bread could carry no more than 280 mg per 100 g or 140 mg per 2-slice serving.

DEAD SEA SOLUTION.

Formulators have considered sea salt as a possible lower-sodium substitute for conventional salt, but until now, the sodium content of commercially available sea salt hasn’t been much lower than what it replaced. Earlier this summer, ICL Performance Products LP, St. Louis, MO, introduced Salona natural sea salt that contains just 1.7% sodium compared with 39% sodium in table salt. It enables a 25 to 50% reduction in sodium chloride in many processed foods.

“Salona is a natural mineral derived from the Dead Sea,” said Nancy Stachiw, director, applications technology, ICL Performance Products. “As a completely natural compound, Salona is minimally processed and low in sodium levels. Analysis shows there is 1.7 g of sodium for every 100 g of Salona compared with 39 g sodium in 100 g of sodium chloride.”

The company has been working on this new sea salt for several years, according to Barbara Heidolph, principal, food ingredients, ICL Performance Products. She described how ICL collaborated with another division of ICL in Israel, which has the mineral rights in Israel to the Dead Sea, where this material is sourced.

Salona consists of magnesium and potassium chloride, described by ICL as complementary mineral salts, and comes in three granulations: fine, medium and coarse.

“This is a natural mineral and may be described as natural on product labels because processing is minimal,” Ms. Heidolph explained. “And it’s a source for magnesium and potassium in the diet.” The company’s manufacturing process targets a specific range of minerals, including sodium, in this patent-pending ingredient.

FUNCTIONAL RANGE.

In terms of functional activity, Salona has been shown to maintain water activity in several products like the control formulation in foods when it substitutes for sodium chloride. “Because it has the divalent magnesium ion present, it may help with dough development in baked foods made with reduced levels of salt,” Ms. Heidolph observed.

“Sensory testers say Salona’s taste is actually saltier than regular salt in some applications,” she added. This has been demonstrated in foods as diverse as meats, cheese, French fries and tomato juice as well as bakery and biscuits. During work with tortillas, researchers found Salona enabled a slightly lower pH, also a beneficial characteristic.

Such versatility is important. “Because Salona has similar performance characteristics as regular salt, it can be used in a diverse range of food and beverage applications,” said Cindy Brewer, food business director, ICL Performance Products.

“Salona joins our portfolio of sodium-reduction ingredients that includes the Levona zero-sodium, calcium-rich range of leavening acids that replace sodium-containing leaveners,” Ms. Heidolph added. The company’s website, www.icl-perfproductslp.com, provides technical details about these ingredients.      
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