Research groups and universities throughout Europe have been invited to help UK food manufacturers cut the level of salt in baked goods, confectionary products and other foods.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) have asked European scientists to help their members meet commitments to reduce salt under the UK government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal.
Particularly challenging are further reductions in the salt levels of bread; especially speciality and morning goods, cakes, pastries and fruit pies and puddings, according to the BRC.
Its deputy food director, Andrea Martinez-Inchausti told BakeryandSnacks.com: "Our members have made fantastic progress reducing the levels of salt in food in recent years.
But in some difficult cases [such as bread, cake and pudding categories] we've come as far as we can without help from science. If salt is reduced further there's a danger that products will no longer taste the way customers want them to.”
Not just taste, but shelf life and even food safety could, in some circumstances, be compromised by further reductions in salt, she added.
“It's pointless to put this much effort into reducing salt as an ingredient if consumers simply add a large amount themselves. We also need to find ways of preserving food effectively so it doesn't go to waste."
Aside from bakery and confectionary, other challenging categories for salt reduction included: meat, particularly bacon, sausages and burgers, cheeses, especially soft cheeses and cheddar, extruded and pelleted snacks and canned fish.
To help food manufacturers meet that challenge, scientists and academic groups across Europe have been invited to tender for an £18,000 research project. In a letter sent to European stakeholders, Martinez-Inchausti wrote: “This research should provide a comprehensive overview of the technical solutions, including processing and ingredients currently under development, together with an assessment of the benefits and barriers resulting from using such technologies.”
Terry Jones, FDF communications director, said: "Food manufacturers have already gone to great lengths to reduce the salt content of many of the UK's much-loved brands while keeping the great taste that consumers demand.
“Nevertheless with the challenging 2012 targets on the horizon, we are funding this work on behalf of our members to identify and assess technical solutions to further reduce salt in key categories."
Tenders have to be submitted by September 23 and the winner will be announced in the second week of October. The project should be completed by next March.
Martinez-Inchausti added that BRC and FDF would recommend promising projects to the UK government for potential fast-track funding.
UK food and drink manufacturers have been working to reduce salt levels since 2008 when the Food Standards Agency published a consultation on cutting dietary salt.
Meanwhile, cutting salt intakes could save millions of lives globally, according to a recent report published on our sister site, FoodNavigator.com. It reported advice from Professor Francesco Cappuccio, Warkwick Medical School, that a reduction of 3gms of salt a day would prevent up to 8,000 stroke deaths and up to 12,000 coronary heart disease deaths per year in the UK alone.