Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cutting the Salt

First it was saturated fat, and then it was trans fat, the new culprit on the menu: SODIUM. And not without reason: In salt-sensitive people, elevated levels of sodium in the diet have been shown to raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. So it’s no surprise that health advocates like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) have been lobbying for government control over the use of salt. They even went so far as to sue Denny’s for the amount of sodium served in dishes (some as high as 5,690 mg of sodium) and suing the FDA for not imposing tighter regulations for the use of salt as an additive packages foods.

While Denny’s responded by calling their lawsuit frivolous, congress responded by consulting the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to further investigate the claims against salt and make some recommendations. Those recommendations included that the FDA make encourage the food industry to limit sodium levels in foods. The FDA agreed that sodium is a problem and agreed to take steps to help the food industry comply with these recommendations.

Most of us in the industry know that limiting salt in both restaurant and retail food is a larger undertaking than most consumers believe. Salt plays a crucial role in food flavoring, and is a critical leavening agent in baking, not to mention the number one food preservative in our food system. And these recommendations aren’t talking about minor changes; the average American eats about 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day while current federal dietary guidelines suggest 2,300 mg, and the Center for Disease Control suggests a meager 1,500 mg. We’re talking big salt cuts.

I fully recognize that salt/sodium is a major issue that we need to address. However, I’m a bit concerned about how the industry will respond. Remember when the government started suggesting that we limit saturated fat intake? The outcome of that was trans fat; that came around to bite us in the….

So what are the scientists going to come up with to replace salt in foods?

One thing that I have been hearing a lot about in foodservice the use of spice blends in replace of salt to add flavor. That works, but I would imagine that spices are more expensive than salt, and they don’t reslove the preservative issue.

I need some more feedback:

What do you think about the salt issue?

How do you (if you do) cut back on salt in your cooking?

1 comment:

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