IFST publishes salt information statement

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt, Salt reduction, Nutrition

The UK's Institute of Food Science & Technology has published
an updated information statement on salt and salt reduction - one
of the hottest topics in the food industry at the moment.

The publication confirms the growing scientific consensus that salt reduction will be a healthy measure for many people, given that such reductions can be achieved without jeopardising safety issues, and are technically possible.

Despite the obvious impact on taste, salt performs a wide variety of other functions. In processed meat products, for example, salt is involved in activating proteins to increase water-binding activity, improves the binding and textural properties of proteins, helps with the formation of stable batters with fat, and also extends shelf-life with its anti-microbacterial effects.

"If salt reduction is achieved without compromising microbiological safety, no part of the population would be disadvantaged by it, as those who might find certain reduced-salt manufactured foods less palatable have the freedom to add table salt to taste before consumption,"​ said the IFST.

Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but salt reduction campaigners consider the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, is far too high.

The pressure has been mounting on food manufacturers to reduce the salt content of their foods and the UK's food standards agency (FSA) recommendation of six grams of salt per day for the general population is understood to be more a realistic target for the next five years than the ideal healthy limit.

"The UK Food and Drink Federation have responded positively to the FSA recommendations,"​ said the IFST.

In the UK, Ireland and the USA, over 80 per cent of salt intake comes from processed food, with 20 per cent of salt intake coming from meat and meat products, and about 35 per cent from cereal and cereal products.

Yet not everyone agrees with the science behind the salt reduction campaigners claims. Robert Speiser, director of EuSalt, told FoodNavigator last year that he strongly disputes the need for salt intake restrictions.

Speiser's concern is that some regulatory bodies, such as the FSA in the UK, focus on certain scientific studies and neglect others.

However, according to the IFST have reached the same conclusion as the FSA and other authorities like the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) and the American Public Health Association, that the science does support salt reduction.

"Recognising that in science, and especially in nutrition/health controversies, nothing can ever be conclusively proven, one has to make, on what will always be partial knowledge, the best judgement possible at the time,"​ state the IFST.

"This would, at present, require: Encouragement to food manufacturers to reduce further, where safely and technically possible, the salt content of manufactured or prepared foods and/or offer an alternative choice of low sodium/salt products; Food adequately labelled in respect of sodium/salt to provide sufficiently understandable information for the exercise of informed choice; Appropriate medical advice to older hypertensives and to parents regarding their childrens diet."

The Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) is the independent professional qualifying body for food scientists and technologists. It is totally independent of government, of industry, and of any lobbying groups or special interest groups.

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