Hold the salt: U of S researchers work with food industry to reduce sodium in bread and processed meats

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - April 29, 2013 SASKATOON - Researchers in the University of Saskatchewan Department of Food and Bioproduct Sciences are taking aim at two of the biggest sources of salt in the Canadian diet: our daily bread and the processed meats that often go with it.

"Canadians are consuming way too much salt," said U of S researcher Mike Nickerson, who holds the Ministry of Agriculture Strategic Research Chair. Nickerson leads a team working with industry to reduce salt in bread and baked goods.
World Health Organization statistics show Canadians are among the highest consumers of salt in the world, and according to a 2010 report by Health Canada's Sodium Working Group, bread and baked products are the single largest source of salt in their diet, at 14 per cent. Processed meats are second, at nine per cent.
Health Canada has decreed salt intake must come down by 2016, a deadline that has industry scrambling.
Nickerson explained salt is a huge challenge for organizations like Canada Bread, one of the country's largest bakeries and one of the funders of his project.
Bakers are looking to cut salt levels by nearly a third, but reducing it can make the dough a sticky, equipment-fouling mess, Nickerson said. His task is to shed light on how proteins and starches interact with water, yeast and salt to find out how sodium controls dough structure.
Meanwhile, wheat breeder Pierre Hucl at the U of S Crop Development Centre is looking at what varieties perform well in low-salt bread recipes. What he finds could determine what varieties farmers grow to serve Canadian and international markets.
The other part of the salty sandwich - processed meats - is the target of associate professor and meat scientist Phyllis Shand.
"The salt in processed meats has very important technological functions that make it very difficult to take sodium out," she said. Salt helps preserve meat, she continued, a role less critical with modern refrigeration but still important because reducing it could encourage the growth of bacteria.
Salt imparts much of the texture and "mouth feel" to products by interacting with proteins in the meat to provide structure and water holding, Shand explained. This is important because consumers will not buy processed meats with too much liquid in the packaging.
Swapping in alternative ingredients like potassium chloride (another salt), enzymes or even flax meal help stabilize the meat protein, but none provide the total answer as they can adversely affect taste and price. Shand is optimistic a combination of tweaking ingredients and procedures could work. For example, bologna could be made one day, refrigerated, then cooked the next day.
Funding for Shand's research is provided through Saskatchewan's Agriculture Development Fund and the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency. Nickerson's work is supported by the Western Grains Research Foundation, Saskatchewan's Agricultural Development Fund, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
For more information, contact:
Michael Robin
Research Communications Specialist
(306) 966-1425

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