Dossier

Salt in food

The Dutch eat too much salt. Salt raises blood pressure and is bad for the cardiovascular system and kidneys. How can we strive for less salt in our food? Will it still be savoury enough for the consumer? Is getting used to consuming less salt a matter of conditioning?

These are important questions for the food industry, as salt is an appetising flavour enhancer. Together with Wageningen University & Research, businesses are researching salt substitutes such as soy sauce and other flavour enhancers. Furthermore, it is possible to repress the amount of salt content in ready-to-eat meals with special technologies, without compromising the taste. In this way Wageningen University & Research works towards the improvement of the quality of life.

What is salt?

The most important salt in foods is table salt, or sodium chloride (NaCl). One gram of sodium chloride consists of 0.4g of sodium and 0.6g of chloride. Salt dissolves well in water; a solution of salt water is called brine.

'Sodium chloride' is meant wherever the term 'salt' is used in this dossier.

Less salt

  • If people in the Netherlands would eat one gram less of salt per day, it would reduce the number of annual deaths from heart disease by approximately 150 to 350 and the number of annual deaths due to strokes by 200 to 400 (Netherlands Heart Foundation, 2011).
  • If the Dutch would eat no more than six grams of salt per day (three grams less than now on average), there would be some 2,500 people less passing away due to cardiovascular diseases¬† (Netherlands Nutrition Centre).

Fewer deaths

Although most people know eating salt is bad for one's health, daily salt consumption is not dropping (Netherlands Heart Foundation, 2011). This is mainly due to how the Dutch ingest their salt: almost 80% is ingested through purchased foods, while only 20% is added in cooking or at the table (RIVM, 2012). This means reducing the amount of salt in the Dutch diet requires the cooperation of the food industry. This appears to be no easy task. The Dutch consumer is accustomed to high salt concentrations and could stop buying a familiar product if it would suddenly contain less salt. In addition, a reduced salinity could have far-reaching technological implications for the process and product. In response to the tightened recommendations on salt intake, food manufacturers are working on a gradual reduction of the salt content in their products. As of 2013, a producer who falls behind in salt reduction compared to peers will receive a cautionary letter from the Minister of Health.


Salt reduction

Together with Wageningen University & Research, businesses are researching salt substitutes such as soy sauce and other flavour enhancers. Furthermore, it is possible to repress the amount of salt content in ready-to-eat meals with special technologies, without compromising the taste.

Wageningen University & Research also researches consumer behaviour, for example through practical observations in the Restaurant of the Future. In addition, a home test was developed that enables the industry to investigate whether the reformulated products appeal to consumers. This home test provides an accurate reflection of reality and is also cost efficient.


 

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