Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

The Food Safety Impact of Salt and Sodium Reduction Initiatives

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

The Food Safety Impact of Salt and Sodium Reduction Initiatives

Article excerpt


Salt has been known to be used since the year 2000 bc to provide microbiological stability to foods and to add or enhance flavour profiles.1 The function of salt as a preserving property made it very valuable in earlier history and it was often used as a trading commodity. Although the processes in which it is used have changed over time, salt is still a commonly used component of food for preservation, as a processing aid and for taste.1 This review aims to investigate current knowledge and guidance on salt reduction for food manufacturers, specifically focussing on potential food safety concerns and highlighting current knowledge gaps.

Salt may be vacuum extracted, mined from rock or evaporated from salt water, and food grade salt will be washed in brine, filtered, dried and screened before sale.2 Salt is made of two components, 40% sodium and 60% chloride, and it is the sodium component that is of concern for health. The terms 'salt reduction' and 'sodium reduction' tend to be used interchangeably in the literature and so this article will use both terms in line with the information reviewed. The body requires sodium, mainly for regulating extracellular fluid volumes, but cannot produce it and it therefore has to obtain it through food intake.3 in early human development salt would have been obtained through sources such as seaweed and, as hunting and farming increased, the salt requirements would be met through consumption of basic meat and dairy products.4 Today, three- quarters of our daily salt intake comes through the food we buy and up to 50% of this may be from combinations of breakfast cereals, biscuits, cakes and bread.5

Drive to reduce sodium

in europe salt consumption peaked during the 19th century to 18g per day, when it was common for large quantities of salted fish and meat to be eaten.4 Salt intake is normally estimated via measurement of urinary sodium excretion levels, and urinary sodium excretion was estimated to be 9.5g per day in 2000-2001. Following further assessment of urinary sodium levels in 2008 the average adult population salt intake was estimated to be 8.6g per day.5,6 Based on the data provided by these surveys, the Department of Health, in the responsibility salt deal targets, recommends that intake be reduced to no more than 6g of salt per day as it is known that elevated sodium intake contributes to hypertension and in turn cardiovascular disease.7,8 Salt has also been suggested to affect bone density and high sodium intake related to the cause of other illnesses such as, gastric cancer and kidney stones but there is no definitive link to these conditions.9

in this context salt targets originally set by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2006 were reviewed and adjusted by the Department of Health in 2010 and 2012.10-12 The Secretary of State responsibility deal on public health has asked businesses to sign up to the voluntary pledge13 to reduce sodium levels in food and these are now defined in 2017 targets.12 These targets include 28 food group categories (as seen in Table 1, available as online supplementary information) and there is clearly a substantial formulation change for some of these groups of products.12 A follow-up urinary sodium survey will be conducted in 2014, with results expected to be published in 2015 by the Department of Health.14 This survey should help to demonstrate how progress by food manufacturers towards these salt targets is impacting salt consumption in the UK population.

Although salt is used in food preservation to aid inhibition of microorganisms, non-fatal exposure to salt may allow some microorganisms to increase the risk of causing illness.15,16 Long-term salt stress of enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (eHeC) has been found to increase attachment potential of the organism to the body's epithelial cells.15 Therefore, usage levels for microbiological control must be carefully established.

The process of sodium reduction has been successful to date. …

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