Tackling Sodium Reduction in Dry Prepared Foods
The processed foods category has become a key sodium reduction target due to its prevalence in consumer diets and consequentially, its strong potential to help improve public health.
Dry prepared foods – identified as the products that you can find in the center aisle of the grocery store – are a large source of sodium in the average person’s diet. According to Nielsen grocery data, the Prepared Foods category accounts for over 85,000 tons of salt used per year, which makes up about 23% of the total market.(1) In the US, more than 70% of a person’s dietary sodium comes from industrially prepared and restaurant foods.(2) Among recent efforts to reduce Americans’ consumption of sodium, the processed foods category has become a key target due to its prevalence in the consumer’s diet and consequentially, its strong potential to help better public health.(3) While there are multiple options for reducing sodium in processed foods,(4) partial replacement using the mineral blend potassium chloride appears to be one of the most popular and effective solutions.(4)
The dry prepared foods category is a large and varied category. The following foods are just a few examples of what the category encompasses:
- Complete Meals
- Mac and Cheese
- Pre-made Sandwiches
While the role of salt may vary among different types of foods, it plays key functional roles in each.(5) Within the processed foods category, sodium chloride can be a crucial ingredient for flavor enhancement, texture development, shelf-life extension, and microbial management.(5) The ingredient often performs several of these roles in the same food.(6)
Pizza is a great example of how sodium chloride can have several functionalities in the same food. In pizza, the key functionality of salt differs depending on which component of the pizza is being considered. In the crust, salt aids in gluten development and helps keep the dough pliable. In the cheese, salt helps build the desired texture while also extending shelf-life through management of the microbial activity level. In the meat toppings – like sausage or pepperoni – salt aids in protein extraction. On top of all the specific functionalities, salt also gives pizza the proper coloring and flavor a consumer would expect.(6) It’s clear that salt is an important ingredient in the processed foods category, and the recent US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sodium reduction initiatives highlight the need to find suitable alternatives to sodium chloride.(3)
Potassium chloride, a mineral blend with many of the same functionalities as salt, has presented a viable and common solution for sodium reduction.(7) Substituting just 30% of a product’s salt with potassium chloride helps to provide many of the same functional benefits, lower sodium content, and increase potassium content(6). A maximum replacement rate of 30% is used as a general rule of thumb because the taste of the product may not be significantly negatively affected at this level.(4) However, each product within the prepared foods category is very different, and a lower or higher replacement rate may be justified depending on the properties of the product.
Another benefit of using potassium chloride for sodium reduction is its ability to increase the potassium content in food.(8) With the upcoming mandatory declaration of potassium content to the Nutrition Facts Label by 2020,(9) and the recent decrease in the Daily Value for sodium from 2,400 to 2,300 milligrams per day,(10) potassium chloride is an effective option to improve the nutrient profile of prepared food products in both areas. Given this category’s significant contribution to the average individual’s daily sodium intake, reduction through potassium chloride has potential for a positive impact on public health.
- Nielsen Holdings PLC. Cargill Salt Product Insider Report (Data File). New York City: Nielsen Holdings PLC, 2018.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Get the Facts: Sodium’s Role in Processed Food.” Oct 2017. Accessed on 17 Aug 2018. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/salt/pdfs/sodium_role_processed.pdf
- U.S Food and Drug Administration. “Sodium Reduction.” 8 Feb 2018. Accessed on 17 Aug 2018. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/ucm253316.htm
- Rodrigues, Fernando, et al. “Alternatives to reduce sodium in processed foods and the potential of high pressure technology.” Food Science and Technology (Campinas). Jan 2015. DOI: 10.1590/1678-457X.6833. Accessed on 17 Aug 2018. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283848960_Alternatives_to_reduce_sodium_in_processed_foods_and_the_potential_of_high_pressure_technology
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The Role of Sodium in Your Food.” Last updated 15 Mar 2018. Accessed on 17 Aug 2018. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/salt/role_of_sodium.htm
- Sherwin, Macy. Personal interview. 14 June 2018.
- Cargill. “Video: Benefits of Potassium Pro Potassium Chloride in Food Products.” InPerspective. Accessed on 17 Aug 2018. Retrieved from https://www.cargill.com/salt-in-perspective/video-benefits-of-potassium-pro%C2%AE-potassium-chloride
- Lopes, Maria, et al. “Sodium Reduction in Bread: A Role for Glasswort (Salicornia ramosissmima J. Woods).” Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, Vol 16, 2017. pp. 1056-1071. Accessed on 10 Aug 2018. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1541-4337.12277
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. “Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label.” Last updated 28 Jun 2018. Accessed on 10 Aug 2018. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm
- Pillsbury, Callie. “Daily Values and Unit changes on the New Nutrition Facts Label.” 11 Jul 2016. Accessed on 17 Aug 2018. Retrieved from https://blog.watson-inc.com/nutri-knowledge/daily-values-and-unit-changes-on-the-new-nutrition-facts-label