Technological breakthrough needed to meet FSA salt targets

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt reduction targets, Food standards agency

A technological breakthrough is required for manufacturers to meet the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) draconian salt reduction targets for 2012,...

A technological breakthrough is required for manufacturers to meet the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) draconian salt reduction targets for 2012, according to processors at a salt reduction symposium in London.

There had been a flurry of salt replacement product launches in recent months. But there was still no single ingredient that could replicate all the functionality of salt and meet retailers’ clean-label demands, said speakers at the event.

Heinz company nutritionist Tristan Robinson urged manufacturers unaware of new, stricter targets set by the FSA for 2012, to respond to a consultation document issued by the FSA on the targets by the October 31 deadline and outline their concerns.

He added: “We had a series of very constructive meetings with the FSA earlier this year in which we were talking about revised guidance for 2010 outlining suggested average salt levels for all the food categories. And then without any warning, they put out a consultation document [in July] that set new, completely unrealistic, maximum targets for 2012. But these weren’t discussed at all in the meetings we had attended.”

Heinz, which has already driven significant reductions in salt in its soups, beans and pasta-based products, was “pretty shocked” when it first read the document, he added. “We’d be very interested to hear the scientific rationale behind this. How did it arrive at these figures?”

Barbara Gallani, who heads up the biscuit, cake, chocolate and confectionery (BCCC) sub sector group at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: “The FSA is obviously under a lot of pressure [to drive down salt intakes] and we are working with FSA officials to ensure that the technical challenges involved are fully understood and taken into account. Reformulation can only work if industry is fully committed.”

Ingredients suppliers at the conference presented a variety of salt reduction solutions, but there was no silver bullet, admitted French firm Armor Proteines.

The firm, which has recently launched LactoSalt Optitaste, a milk mineral concentrate claimed to replicate both the technical functionality and sensory profile of salt, is working with suppliers of bread, cheese, soups and dietetic products. It has also worked with Marks & Spencer on some bakery products. However, its dairy origins meant LactoSalt also came with an allergen declaration, which did put some customers off, admitted sales manager Patrick Laurens.

Other suppliers had developed some interesting new ‘clean-label’ yeast extracts and flavour enhancers. But they typically worked best in conjunction with non-sodium salts like potassium chloride, which many manufacturers were also trying to avoid, said Robinson at Heinz.

Salt reduction in bread remained one of the biggest technical challenges, said Albert Jurgens, senior scientist at Dutch contract research organisation TNO. “Go much below 1.5% salt in dough and you’ve got big problems with stability, gluten development, stickiness, volume, texture and shelf-life.”

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