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Sizing up sea salt

by Jeff Gelski
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The evolution of sodium reduction in processed foods apparently is set to continue in 2012, as well as possible growing interest in incorporating sea salt. Food companies wanting to combine the two trends in product development, however, may want to take a cautious approach. Not all sea salts are the same, and many may have as much sodium chloride as table salt.

ICL Performance Products LP, St. Louis, said it has an exception in its Salona ingredient. A natural mineral derived from the Dead Sea, Salona has levels ranging from 31 percent to 35 percent magnesium chloride, 21 percent to 26 percent potassium chloride and not more than 7 percent sodium chloride, said Nadeen Myers, food phosphate specialist for ICL Performance Products LP.

“Most sea salts are mainly sodium chloride with only minor or trace levels of other elements,” she says. “Salona low-sodium sea salt is much lower in sodium and much higher in magnesium and potassium than most other sea salts.”

Salona may be used in many food applications as a replacement for up to 50 percent sodium chloride and as a full replacement for potassium chloride, she adds. ICL Performance Products launched Salona in 2011. The product is available in three granulations: fine, medium and coarse.

Kosher salt and most sea salt are chemically the same as table salt (40 percent sodium) and they count the same toward total sodium consumption, according to the Dallas-based American Heart Association. The AHA said manufacturers are using sea salt in potato chips and other snacks because it’s “all-natural” and not processed like table salt and because some health-conscious consumers choose sea salt because it contains minerals like magnesium.

“Sea salt is obtained directly through the evaporation of seawater,” the association said. “It is usually not processed, or undergoes minimal processing, and therefore retains trace levels of minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium and other nutrients. Table salt, on the other hand, is mined from salt deposits and then processed to give it a fine texture so it’s easier to mix and use in recipes. Processing strips table salt of any minerals it may have contained, and additives are also usually incorporated to prevent clumping or caking.”

Wendy’s International Inc., Dublin, Ohio, in 2010 took the natural approach when it introduced natural-cut french fries with sea salt.

For the record

Consumers may associate sea salt with reduced sodium. In a survey last year the AHA asked 1,000 American adults to assess their awareness and beliefs about how sea salt effects heart health. Sixty-one percent incorrectly agreed that sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to table salt, according to the AHA.

In research released Nov. 17 from the Consensus Action on Salt and Health, a public health advocacy group based in London, a public analyst measured the sodium chloride content of gourmet rock and sea salts and table salt. The results showed all the salts contained as much sodium chloride as each other. According to a survey conducted by the London-based market research firm Which?, people who buy rock or sea salt said they do so because they believe those salts are healthier (24 percent) or more natural (39 percent) than table salt.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends reducing sodium daily intake to less than 2,300 mg. A further reduction to 1,500 mg daily intake of sodium should be sought by people age 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. The AHA recommends consuming no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.

In 2011, London-based Tate & Lyle PLC signed an exclusive, worldwide license agreement with Eminate Ltd., a subsidiary of the Univ. of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, for a salt-reduction technology. Tate & Lyle will assume responsibility for commercializing the Soda-Lo technology. Tate & Lyle plans to commence a global rollout of the product this year.

“Soda-Lo is actually based on ordinary salt [sodium chloride] in conjunction with a small amount of binder such as maltodextrin or acacia gum, both naturally and widely used food ingredients,” said Mathew Wootton, group vice president, investor relations for Tate & Lyle. “Using special manufacturing, the ingredients are combined to make small particles, microscopic hollow balls, which are a fraction of the size of normal salt crystals. Soda-Lo particles taste saltier on the tongue and thus less Soda-Lo is required to achieve the same level of saltiness in foods than when using ordinary table salt.”

Meat products may benefit

Innophos Inc., Cranbury, NJ, now has two ingredients that may be used to reduce sodium in meat products. SuperBind is a new phosphate blend designed to achieve superior binding in a variety of meat products, according to the company. It is helpful to enhance binding in lower sodium meat and poultry products. It may be labeled as sodium phosphate.

Curavis So-Lo 93 may be used to reduce sodium in processed meat and poultry. It is a specialty phosphate blend containing a balanced mix of potassium and sodium pyrophosphate to achieve good functionality and appearance, according to Innophos.

Jeff Gelski is associate editor of Food Business News, a sister publication of Meat&Poultry.

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