A rising interest in sodium reduction

by Jeff Gelski
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Millions of Americans may know about recommendations to reduce sodium intake, but fewer may guess where a good deal of that sodium comes from — grain-based foods. Formulators, in turn, have techniques and ingredients available to reduce sodium in the grain-based category, including options in leavening systems, but they also may have reasons to avoid promoting a product’s reduced-sodium content.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans said people should limit their daily intake of sodium to 2,300 mg per day, but U.S. adults on average consume 3,466 mg per day of sodium, according to the June 25 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.

Much of that sodium (1,288 mg or 37%) comes from grains, with bread accounting for 354 mg, or 11%. Also in the category, grain mixtures, frozen plates and soups account for 530 mg of sodium, or 14%. Cakes, cookies and crackers account for 229 mg, or 7%. Other sources of grains are 174 mg, or 5%.

Still, one survey casts doubt on whether many Americans seek reduced-sodium grain-based products. Six in 10 Americans regularly purchase foods that are reduced or lower in sodium, according to the 2010 International Food Information Council Food & Health Survey. Of those respondents who purchased such products, 58% said they bought canned soup reduced or lower in sodium and 48% said they bought snacks like chips and crackers that were reduced or lower in sodium. Only 18% said they purchased bread or rolls that were reduced or lower in sodium.

Cogent Research, Cambridge, Mass., conducted the Web-based survey, which ran from April 30 to May 17 and involved 1,024 people. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 3%.

People may not know how many reduced-sodium products exist. Mariano Gascon, vice-president of research and development for Wixon, Inc., St. Francis, Wis., said a Mintel report listed only 86 new products with low-sodium claims in all categories launched in 2009.

“I can assure you that more than 86 new products in the market had lower sodium,” he said. “We have trained consumers to associate low sodium with bad taste, which is not the case nowadays.”

Wixon offers KCLean Salt, which combines a proprietary ingredient with sodium chloride and potassium chloride.

Manufacturers may be more likely to promote the reduced-sodium content of products associated for high salt content, such as soups, than the reduced-sodium content of products not associated with high salt content, such as baked foods, said Peter Bradbury, market development manager for Jungbunzlauer AG, Basel, Switzerland.

The upcoming release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans may interest consumers and food companies. An advisory committee recommended a gradual reduction in daily sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day from the 2,300 mg recommended in 2005.

“Long term, the recommendations will lead to reduced-sodium products becoming the norm rather than an alternative,” said Laith Wahbi, global product manager, Savoury, for Givaudan Flavours, which has a U.S. office in Cincinnati. “If we look to other markets such as the U.K. where the focus on reducing sodium has been intense over the last few years, you see that food producers tend to move away from using reduced sodium as a marketing claim.”

The American Bakers Association, Washington, supports a reduction of sodium in foods in a “measured and thoughtful manner.” According to the A.B.A., drastically reducing sodium in a short time might harm the quality, taste and texture of bread and thus likely would discourage consumption of whole grain and enriched grain products that include such nutrients as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, folic acid and fiber. The A.B.A. points out U.S. Department of Agriculture data show the average sodium level in a slice of bread has dropped to 180 mg from 254 mg in 1963.

In baked foods, added salt and leavening acids are the two main sources of sodium, Mr. Bradbury said. Jungbunzlauer offers sub4salt as a way to reduce added salt. A blend of sodium chloride, potassium chloride and sodium gluconate, sub4salt may bring about a 35% sodium reduction when used as a 1:1 replacement for salt.

To replace sodium-based leavening acids, Jungbunzlauer offers glucono-delta-lactone (GdL), an organic acid occurring naturally in plants. A sodium reduction of 25% to 35% may be achieved when GdL replaces sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP).

Bakers often find it more challenging to formulate with traditional leavening systems due to sodium levels, said Barbara Heidolph, technical service principal for ICL Performance Products L.P., St. Louis. For them, ICL offers the Levona family of sodium-free leavening acids. A good source of calcium, Levona (calcium acid pyrophosphate) is available in two grades. Opus offers a slow-delayed leavening action and is ideal for frozen and refrigerated products. Brio, a faster grade of Levona leavening acid, delivers the carbon dioxide necessary for leavening early in the baking process. It has been shown to work in “better-for-you” cakes, biscuits, muffins, tortillas and baking powders.

Sodium in baked foods may come from sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate and sodium-based leavening acids, Ms. Heidolph said. Food formulators generally should look first at reducing sodium chloride. Then they should look at taking out the sodium-based leavening acids and finally the sodium bicarbonate, she said.

Sodium choloride, sodium-based leavening acids and sodium bicarbonate combined may make up 90% to 99% of the sodium in leavened baked foods, said John Brodie, technical service manager, bakery, at Innophos, Cranbury, N.J. Innophos offers Cal-Rise, a chemical mixture of calcium acid pyrophosphate and monocalcium phosphate, anhydrous that may replace SAPP, which is 21% sodium.

“There are really a lot of options out there,” Mr. Brodie said. “They (bakers) just have to be aware of how much sodium is in these leavenings.”
Sodium-reduction strategies evolve for cheese

Salt brings desirable flavor to consumer products, including cheese, but it offers other benefits as well.
“Salt from a historical perspective has always been used as a preservative,” said Janice Johnson, food applications leader for Cargill Salt. “The Vikings when they were out conquering the world, they salted their cod.”

The aging process ranks as a priority in cheese-making. Controlling water activity influences a microorganism’s ability to survive, Dr. Johnson said. Salt allows desired organisms in cheese to survive and undesired ones not to survive, she added.

Strategies to reducing sodium out of cheese while keeping in quality continue to evolve with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy taking a leading role. The Innovation Center has done consumer, sensory and analytical research. One study sought to understand the amount of sodium in U.S. retail cheese products such as cheddar, mozzarella and process.

Researchers found significant variability in the amount of sodium in cheese driven by type of cheese, brands, cheese form and sample-to-sample variation. Reducing variability through best practices in the manufacturing process is a step toward reducing sodium content, according to Dairy Management Inc.

Reduction in variability also may reduce the need for manufacturers to overstate the amount of sodium on the label of their packages to meet regulatory requirements.

Salt aids in cheese ripening, shelf life and safety, said Bill Graves, senior vice-president of product research for D.M.I. Potassium chloride partially may replace sodium chloride and fulfill these needs, but an off-taste in potassium chloride often requires flavor maskers. Work has evolved in this area, as well as work with blends of potassium chloride and sodium chloride, he said.

Cargill Salt offers Premier potassium chloride, which controls microbial growth and water activity, Dr. Johnson said. Cargill Salt and a flavor house within Cargill may collaborate to create unique solutions for finished cheese products, she added.

In cheese processing, sodium chloride functions to pull the whey out of the curd or aids in dehydration of the cheese, according to Nu-Tek Products, L.L.C., Minnetonka, Minn. Drawing whey or moisture out of the cheese gives it a firmer texture, lowers the water content and increases the ionic strength of the cheese.
Nu-Tek Products has a patent-pending reduced-sodium salt technology that it planned to introduce at I.F.T. 10, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition July 17-20 in Chicago. Nu-Tek’s process modifies potassium chloride’s crystal structure to enhance the flavor and functionality of potassium chloride to make it taste and function like sodium chloride. According to Nu-Tek, typical sodium content in process cheese singles is 1,238 mg per 100 grams while cheddar is 615 mg per 100 grams.

Givaudan Flavours, Cincinnati, offers salt flavors in its TasteSolutions program and has reduced salt content in some milk and dairy products by 50% while achieving target sensory goals, said Minerva Calatayud, global product manager, Sweet Goods and Dairy.

“Dairy-based products such as cheeses can pose a significant taste challenge as the fermentation process leads to the formation of a wide range of amino acids and organic salts that give cheeses their characteristic mouthfeel and bite,” she said. “Reducing the salt level can significantly alter the taste profile due to the taste interactions. So it’s often not just a simple reduction.

“Our approach at Givaudan would be to first assess the changes resulting in the salt reduction and then develop a flavor for the low-sodium product that restores the eating quality back to the original full salt product.”

Cheese was listed in a June 25 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta. The C.D.C. analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for 2005-06 and found U.S. adults on average consume 3,466 mg per day of sodium, The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2,300 mg or less per day. Cheese was at 158 mg, or 4.4%, of the daily average.

Cheese manufacturers should remember the positive aspects of their product, too. Cheese contributes 27% of the calcium, 9% of the protein, 8% of the vitamin A and 7% of the zinc in the American diet, according to D.M.I.

According to the C.D.C. report, meat, poultry, fish and mixtures accounted for 994 mg, or 28%, of the sodium that U.S. adults consume daily on average.

While salt no longer plays as pivotal a role in the preservation of meat as it did 50 to 100 years ago, sodium does provide assistance to meat extenders such as marinades and brines, said Gene Brotsky, a meat specialist in technical services for Innophos, Cranbury, N.J. Sodium-based ingredients may enable extension by improving the binding of meat to hold on to added moisture, he said.

Meat companies have achieved sodium reductions of 10%, 20% and even 40%, Mr. Brotsky said. Innophos offers Curavis So-Lo 93, a polyphosphate blend of potassium and sodium pyrophosphate. It has 93% less sodium than standard sodium phosphates. Curavis So-Lo 93 has been shown to reduce sodium levels by more than 25% in products with less than 1% salt.

Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill., offers ReduxSo natural flavor that may be used in meat products as well as snacks, condiments and soups. In many applications, ReduxSo may create a 40% sodium reduction.

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