Salt has many functionalities in the food we consume every day; it acts as a flavour enhancer, it supports shelf life by reducing water activity and it promotes the formation of texture. It is a vital nutrient in our diet as it controls electrolyte balance which is essential for muscle contraction. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey showed the average current salt intake in the UK is 7.8g per day compared to the UK target of 6g per day, which is roughly one teaspoon1. Achieving this target would help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease.  

To reduce salt intake, Public Health England (PHE) set out salt reduction targets to be achieved by December 2017 but a progress report showed only 32% of food manufacturers were meeting the salt reduction targets2. New salt reduction targets were set out by PHE in 2020 to be achieved by 2024. The table below includes a selection of main sources of salt in the UK diet. For more information on the full list for every product category, please read the UK Government Salt Reduction Targets 2024 Report.

The salt reduction targets for the last 10 years have slowly been decreasing, below highlights the reduction of the salt targets for bread.

Salt Reduction Target 2012 Salt Reduction Target 2017 Salt Target for 2024 (mg sodium per 100g)
1.0 salt or 400mg sodium (average r)

0.9g salt or 360mg sodium (average r) 

1.13g salt or 450mg sodium (maximum)

0.85g salt or 340mg sodium (average r)

1.01g salt or 405mg sodium (maximum)

Table 1. Extract from Public Health England Salt Reduction Targets 2017 and 20243

Food manufacturers have various challenges when reducing salt, from a flavour and texture point of view but also from a food safety point of view. Highlighted below are potential techniques for reducing salt content;

  • Gradually reducing sodium chloride by small amounts over a long period of time
  • Partial or full substitution of sodium chloride for salt replacers such as potassium chloride, magnesium chloride or calcium chloride
  • Reduction of sodium chloride and inclusion of natural substances that increase perception of salt. Examples are; spices, herbs and protein hydrolysates

The solutions above include their own challenges as a high level of salt replacers can cause metallic or bitter taints in the flavour profile and changing ingredients can cause changes in the flavour profile. During the reformulation process product matching is crucial to ensure consumer acceptance, this can be carried out with a consumer or sensory panel.

Salt reformulation varies from product-to-product so food manufacturers will need to decide on solutions that work best for them to achieve the UK Governments salt reduction targets by 2024.  

 

If you have any questions or require assistance to reducing salt content in your product please contact us for a no-obligation consultation;  Email SCFDI

 

References

  1. FOOD STANDARDS SCOTLAND., 2016. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Assessment of dietary sodium Adults (19 to 64 years) in Scotland, 2014. [Online]. Food Standards Scotland. [Accessed 16 February 2022]. Available from:  https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/publications-and-research/publications/national-diet-and-nutrition-survey-assessment-of-dietary-sodium
  2. UK GOVERNMENT., 2019. Salt Targets 2017: progress report A report on the food industry’s progress towards meeting the 2017 salt targets. [Online]. Public Health England. [Accessed 28 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/salt-targets-2017-progress-report
  3. UK GOVERNMENT., 2020. Salt Reduction Targets for 2024. [Online]. Public Health England. [Accessed 16 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/salt-reduction-targets-for-2024

Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation

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