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Walkers cuts salt levels in crisp range

By Lindsey Partos , 23-Feb-2009

Industry continues to slice salt levels from formulations with Walkers crisps, part of PepsiCo, announcing they will cut salt levels across Walkers crisps, Baked and Sensations brands by 10 per cent in 2009.

From June 2009 a standard bag of Walkers crisps will contain on average less than half a gram of salt, or 8 per cent of an adult's guideline daily amount.

With ten million packets of Walkers crisps sold each day in the UK, the crisp company claims its latest salt slash reduction will remove a total of 150 tonnes of salt per year from the UK diet.

"We will continue to reformulate our existing products as well as launch new, great tasting snacks," said a spokesperson for Walkers, that has already removed 25 per cent of salt from its standard Walkers crisps and Walkers Lights, as well as cutting levels in its 'Sensations' brand by about 45 per cent.

Part of a wider battle plan from the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) to see the salt intake of the population reduced to six grams per person, per day by next year, pressure continues on food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in their product designs.

A vital nutrient for the human body, a large swathe of research suggests that too much salt consumption can raise blood pressure, a major risk factor for the major killer of the western world, cardiovascular disease.

Campaigners for salt reduction, such as the UK's Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), believe the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12 grams, is too high.

And in 2005, Tony Blair's government in the UK outlined salt reduction as a priority in the White Paper on Public Health, a priority still in place under Gordon Brown. The authorities are convinced that processed food firms can play a key role in reducing the risk.

The UK's FSA estimates that processed foods, from soups and sauces to breakfast cereals and snacks, contribute a considerable 75 per cent to people's salt intakes.

Salt reduction: a challenge for finance and science

Salt, a flavour enhancer and preservative, is composed of 40 per cent sodium and 60 per cent chlorine.

But removing, or reducing, this key ingredient that plays a pivotal role in multiple foods on the market involves a set of challenges for the food technologist needing to recreate a product that will continue to appeal to the consumer in terms of taste, texture and shelf-life.

And crucially, a widely-available cheap ingredient, any alternatives to salt are likely to add unwanted costs to new product formulations.

Food makers can opt to simply remove the salt from their recipe without providing a replacement, such as Kellogg's salt-reduced corn flake brand.

In removing the salt, the firm opted to increase the corn ingredient already present in the food product recipe, instead of bringing in a flavour enhancer to replace the salt.

Earlier this month a study from ingredient firm Purac suggested a potassium lactate and sodium diacetate mix may reduce the sodium chloride content by 40 per cent, and significantly increase shelf-life.

Using the company’s Purasal Opti.Form PD 4 formulation, containing potassium lactate and sodium diacetate, researchers from Purac Biochem, collaborating with scientists at Ghent University, reported that shelf-life could be prolonged by about 40 days, according to results published in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology.