that will require data to determine the size of a detectable salt reduction. More research in salt-flavor interactions may, however, reveal general principles that will permit predictions in different food systems. Based on this reasoning, it has been suggested that a gradual reduction of salt in food, in incremental steps, would be unnoticed by the consumer. According to this argument, if incremental reductions were instituted regularly (e.g., once each year or even more frequently), it would be possible to substantially reduce the salt content of foods over the course of several years without the consumer noticing. For example, Girgis et al. (2003) reported that 25 percent of the salt in bread could be eliminated, over a cumulative series of small decreases, without people recognizing a taste change (see also, Cauvain, 2007). All sellers of bread would have to make this reduction; otherwise, the changes would be noticed, and the reduced sodium version would be less preferred.
This is an attractive strategy for reducing salt in foods while maintaining their acceptability, and several food manufacturers are reported to have already undertaken it. However, advancements in several research areas may optimize the implementation of such a strategy. First, industry has not undertaken reduction of sodium across all foods, so there may be some individual products for which reductions may be limited. Second, it is likely that there will be a limit to reductions that can be achieved by simply lowering sodium content without additional reformulation and taste changes, but there are no published data testing the limits of this strategy. It seems likely for many foods that at some point further reductions may not be possible while maintaining consumer palatability. Determination of where the point of limited reductions resides will vary by food item and is a focus of industry research during the reformation process. Third, since salt has many sensory functions in foods in addition to making it taste salty, it is unclear whether changes in these other functions would go unnoticed following small reductions or whether additional changes in food formulations would be required.
Reduction of sodium intake may be achieved by reducing salt in food and permitting people to use a salt shaker to add back to the food as much salt as desired (i.e., ad libitum salt use). For example, in one study (Figure 3-6), sodium intake from clinically prepared foods decreased from an average of 3,100 mg/d to an average of 1,600 mg/d over a 13-week period, and participants were permitted unlimited use of a salt shaker to salt their food to taste. Importantly, less than 20 percent of the overall sodium removed during food preparation was replaced by increased use of table salt—the use of which was measured without participants’ knowledge (Beauchamp et al., 1987).