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Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States
which sodium plays a role in creating a physical property or in preservation. The varied sodium levels suggest that the sodium levels in some products may be greater than those needed for these functions. Cases such as these may provide opportunities to lower the sodium content of some foods. A similar conclusion was reached by researchers who surveyed the sodium content of processed foods in Australia and found variation in the salt concentration of comparable foods, frequently ≥ 50 percent between the highest- and lowest-salt foods within a category (Webster et al., 2010). Another survey2 found differences in the salt content of the same brand name foods, including fast food restaurant items, among different countries. Many branded food manufacturers operate internationally and may participate in sodium reduction programs in other countries.
Alternatives that can replace the texture development functions of sodium are limited. However, advances in ingredient technologies have made it possible to replace some salt. Restructured and emulsified items (e.g., sausages, deli meats), for example, are products for which lower-sodium ingredient options have been identified. In these products, functional proteins (e.g., soy or milk), hydrocolloids (e.g., gums or alginates), and starches have replaced some of the functionality of the salt-soluble proteins that form a gel network and “glue” the meat pieces together in higher-salt products (Desmond, 2006). In addition, sodium tripolyphosphate, potassium phosphates, and transglutaminase have been used to improve the stability of reduced-salt emulsified meats in which there may be less salt-soluble protein available to coat and stabilize fat particles (Ruusunen et al., 2002). In their review on sodium reduction, Reddy and Marth (1991) described several studies successfully demonstrating that sodium reduction in meats could result in products evaluated to have acceptable functionality and flavor. In pork, they described a modified processing procedure referred to as emulsion coating that reduced the salt content by 50 percent in chunked and formed ham products. Successful reductions in sodium were also reported for fresh pork sausage, frankfurters, bologna, and comminuted meat batters.
Another method of reducing sodium in foods is to find alternatives to other (non-salt) sodium-containing additives. A number of alternatives have been developed. Table 4-4 provides examples (although not an exhaustive list) of alternatives to sodium-containing compounds that are often used for leavening, dough conditioning, and emulsifying.
Some industries are conducting their own research or funding universities to research alternative processing methods as another strategy to reduce sodium. For example, these approaches include use of pre-rigor mortis muscle in emulsified and restructured meat products (Desmond, 2006)