Reducing sodium in processed meats is a necessity in today’s health-conscious market. One Prepared Foods R&D Seminar speaker discussed sodium and phosphate reduction possibilities—without compromising on taste, cost or functionality.

Reduce Sodium, Phosphates in Processed Meats

Some of the current trends and requirements in meat production involve health, safety and naturalness. Health trends include sodium, phosphate and nitrate reduction, while safety involves Listeria monocytogenes control and shelflife extension. “Naturalness” can mean clean labeling, phosphate replacement or certifying that a product is GMO-free.

John Reidy, market development manager, Jungbunzlauer, discussed sodium and phosphate reduction in detail in a Prepared Foods R&D Seminar presentation titled “Sodium and Phosphate Reduction in Processed Meat.”

Some of the challenges involved in meat processing include what Reidy called “no or lowest compromise on” the following: taste, texture, appearance/color, yield, and productivity and cost.

Reidy first supplied some market information about sodium reduction. The negatives of consuming too much sodium are by now well-known, and they include risk of high blood pressure, stroke, bone loss, kidney diseases and even gastric cancer.

Processed foods, demonstrated Reidy, account for some 80% of consumers’ sodium intake. These foods include dairy, bakery and processed meats. A recent (2012-2014) Mintel analysis shows the US leading  in new product launches with sodium-reduced claims at 50% (followed by Canada at 33%) in North and Latin America.

Reformulating becomes almost a given, in the face of these numbers.  When discussing reformulation options, Reidy pointed out that the main sodium contributors in meat products are salt/curing salt and sodium lactate.

The challenge is that salt and curing salt have many formulation benefits and are multi-functional, providing flavor, color, shelflife extension, yield and texture to meat products. Each of the reformulation options have their ups and downs. For example, potassium chloride is cheap but has significant off-notes and requires the addition of masking agents. (See chart “Reformulation Options.”) 

Simply reducing salt levels means a formulator might need to increase spices, possibly reducing the quality of the product; this also might contain hidden costs.  “Natural compounds” are expensive and also mean the loss of salt functionality. They are, however, considered clean label, which is a plus.

Blends, such as salt/KCl/sodium gluconate, have a clean flavor and the same functionality as salt but mean the addition of more ingredients on the label.

Curing salt contributes to the sodium content in processed foods and has many functionalities, including preservation, flavoring and reddening. Curing salt is a combination of salt, nitrates or nitrites. In the US, it is commonly made up of sodium chloride with 6.25% nitrite and is known as “pink salt.”

Potassium lactates and blends show much promise as reducers of sodium in meat products. Over 50% sodium reduction can be achieved using various blends.

Listeria monocytogenes control is also possible using lactates and blends. A blend of potassium lactate/sodium diacetate “shows higher performance for Listeria control at lower concentrations compared to straight potassium lactate,” commented Reidy.

Shelflife extension is another benefit of using such blends. Reidy demonstrated how “At 2.5%, all products show a growth-inhibiting effect until end of the test period.” Also, “with PL/SD, product stability and long shelflife is still given at use levels of 1.75%.”

Use at lower concentrations provides cost savings, as well, and using a PL/SD blend also improved slice-ability in test meats, compared to PL alone and other blends.

A blend of potassium lactate with potassium diacetate demonstrated the highest rating for salty taste, compared to other blends or PL alone.

Reidy also pointed out that there is significant cost reduction with lower lactate/diacetate blend use levels—about a 25% cost-in-use savings, to be specific, when using blends.

The advantages of potassium lactate/diacetate blends include higher performance, with 30% lower dosage for same safety and shelflife; better slice-ablity and cut resistance; significantly higher saltiness without significantly higher bitterness or sourness; and a sodium reduction of more than 25% vs. sodium lactate—more than 50% when combined with a low-sodium cure vs. sodium lactate plus curing salt.

For phosphate reduction, Reidy pointed out some alternatives, including whey proteins, plum extract, sodium gluconate, fiber, starch and hydrocolloids. 

“Sodium and Phosphate Reduction in Processed Meat,” John Reidy, market development manager, Jungbunzlauer,