The crosscurrents of recent information concerning sodium in the diet pose a quandary for bakers. While baked foods contain only moderate amounts of sodium per serving, so many grain-based foods (thank goodness) are eaten that the products have been said to be the largest source of sodium in the diet.

Yes, legitimate scientific questions have been raised about the wisdom for public health of a sharp reduction of sodium, but a wave of scientific advice urges cutbacks in sodium intake. Not to be overlooked is that salt is crucial for baking, not only for taste but also for its important functional qualities.

Bakers need to recognize the powerful data showing wide ranges of sodium in each bread category, which indicates that significant reductions may be possible. By one estimate, 70% of sodium in the diet comes from processed foods, and 80% of that comes from the three sub-categories of processed meat, dairy (mostly cheese) and baked foods.

Meat makers have been seen making great strides in sodium reduction, while some industry observers have described bakers as more reluctant. With the pending widespread adoption of front-of-packaging labeling that will highlight sodium content in foods, baking needs to make a sober assessment of this very serious situation and needs to act purposefully to help preserve the continued central position of bread in the diet.