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to the action of lactic acid bacteria. Salt favors the growth of these more salt-tolerant, beneficial organisms while inhibiting the growth of undesirable spoilage bacteria and fungi naturally present in these foods (Doyle et al., 2001). Salt also helps to draw water and sugars out of plant tissues during fermentation of vegetables. This water aids fermentation by filling any air pockets present in fermentation vats, resulting in reduced oxygen conditions that favor growth of lactic acid bacteria. The release of water and sugars also promotes fermentation reactions in the resulting brine, increasing the rate of the fermentation process (Doyle et al., 2001; Potter and Hotchkiss, 1995).

Role of Other Sodium Compounds

A number of other sodium-containing compounds provide preservative effects in foods. There is a wide variety of these preservatives with various product uses. Preservatives can act to reduce microbial activity and also may, like salt, act as a hurdle to microbial growth and survival. Some additives may also play a role in preserving food quality by reducing undesirable chemical reactions, such as lipid oxidation and enzymatic browning. In some cases, the compounds can have more than one function in a food product, with preservative effects being one of several reasons for use.

A brief listing of common sodium-containing compounds used for food preservation and the foods with which they are associated can be found in Table 4-1.

TABLE 4-1 Common Sodium-Containing Compounds Used for Food Preservation

Compound Name

Food to Which the Compound Is Added

Disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)

Salad dressing, mayonnaise, canned seafood, fruit fillings

Sodium acetate

Baked goods, seafood

Sodium ascorbate

Meat products

Sodium benzoate

Beverages, fermented vegetables, jams, fruit fillings, salad dressings

Sodium dehydroacetate


Sodium diacetate


Sodium erythorbate

Meat, soft drinks

Sodium lactate

Meat products

Sodium nitrate

Cured meats

Sodium nitrite

Cured meats

Sodium phosphates

Meat products, cheese, puddings or custards

Sodium propionate

Cheese, baked goods

Sodium sulfite

Fruit and vegetable products, seafood

SOURCE: Doyle et al., 2001.

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