Posts Tagged salt

Salt levels slashed in shop bread


loaf-breadSupermarket bread contains 20 per cent less salt than it did a decade ago, according to new research.

Bread is a major source of salt in the diet, providing almost a fifth of the total derived from processed foods.

The recommended daily intake for UK adults is a maximum of 6g, compared with the current average of 8.1g a day.

This study published in the online journal BMJ Open shows that the salt content of bread has been progressively reduced over time, contributing to the evidence base that a target-based approach to salt reduction can work.

“The results show that bakers have gradually reduced the levels of salt in their products, and should be congratulated,” says Adds Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director for CASH (Consensus Action on Salt & Health). “These results provide evidence that the UK salt reduction strategy, based on a series of salt targets for different food groups, has been working.”

Preservatives in food

Preservatives work by killing the micro organism or preventing it from growing

Humans have always found ways to preserve their food to stop it spoiling before it can be eaten. Many of the bacteria and moulds that grow on food can be dangerous. Salmonella, listeria and botulism are familiar forms of food poisoning caused by bacteria, and one of the most infamous food poisoning incidents in history resulted from the growth of the ergot fungus on rye bread, which caused hallucinations. All of these problems can be reduced by using additives.

Preservatives work by killing the microorganism, or preventing it from growing. If the food Preservatives work by killing the micro organism or preventing it from growingis too acidic, too salty, or even too sweet for the microorganism to thrive, then this will slow down or even stop spoilage.

The earliest methods included using salt and smoke. Salt draws water out of the food and any microorganisms in it by osmosis, which prevents the microorganisms from growing. The chemicals introduced during smoking make it more difficult for moulds and bacteria to grow, and can also prevent rancidity. Vinegar, sugar and honey have also been used to preserve foods for centuries. One of the most widely used preservatives today, sulfur dioxide, has actually been in use since the Middle Ages!

Another advantage of preservatives is that we don’t have to shop every day because the food we buy lasts for longer. Not only does this save us precious time, but it also saves fuel as we don’t drive to the supermarket as frequently.

Many modern preservatives are actually simple molecules, and many are derived from nature. Examples include:

Benzoate preservatives

Benzoic acid is a naturally occurring organic acid, which is found in many different fruits, often at levels far higher than would be allowed as a food additive! (the Scandinavian cloudberry – pictured above – actually contains 50 times the legal limit!)  It is used to prevent the growth of yeasts, moulds and some bacteria in acidic foods such as fruit juices, carbonated drinks and pickles, and is used either as the free acid (E210), or as its sodium (E211), potassium (E212) or calcium (E213) salt. It has been suggested that a benzoate-free diet may help selected patients with persistent asthma, but this approach has not been evaluated in published controlled trials.[ref]

Reference: D D Metcalfe, et al. Food allergy : Adverse reactions to foods and food additives, 3rd edition, Blackwell Publishing, JM Fahrenholz, Adverse reactions to benzoates and parabens, pp369-376.

Sulfite preservatives

Sulfur dioxide gas, or related sulfite and metabisulfite compounds, are very important preservatives that have been used for thousands of years. It is used as a preservative in wine, where it prevents bacterial spoilage and oxidation. If the wine has a sulfur dioxide concentration below 10ppm (parts per million), then the label need not say that it contains sulfites – the legal limit is more than 10 times this. It is also used to preserve dried fruits.

It is clear that these preservatives aggravate symptoms in about 4% of asthmatics [ref] and in a handful of cases, this can be severe. Steroid-dependent asthmatics are twice as likely to be affected.

Reference: Bush R.K. et al Prevalence of sensitivity to sulfiting agents in asthmatic patients.  Am J Ned 1986; 81 (5): 816 – 820

As a result of these problems, the permitted levels of sulfur dioxide (E220) and its salts (E221 – 224) have been reduced in recent years; in red wine, for example, the permitted level is now about a third the amount that was allowed a century ago. Sulfites remain one of the most important additives, and they are even permitted in organic foods.

Other Preservatives

Nisin (E234) is a peptide which is made by the bacterium Lactococcus lactis, which is manufactured by growing it on substances such as milk. It is a broad-spectrum antibiotic which stops a number of bacteria from growing on dairy products and Preservatives work by killing the microorganism or preventing it from growingmeats, including listeria.

Propionic acid (E280) is a simple acid, closely related to vinegar. It is often used in bread manufacture, where it is more effective than vinegar. Curiously, even though it is an additive, vinegar doesn’t have an E number as it’s a traditional preservative. This doesn’t make it any more or less safe!

Sodium nitrite (E250) and potassium nitrite (E249) are important preservatives for fish and meat products as they inhibits the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism. There is some concern about the way they are used, as nitrites form cancer-causing nitrosamines during cooking. It is likely that the body neutralises nitrosamines, but processed meats preserved with nitrites now also include vitamins C and E, antioxidants which prevent the formation of nitrosamines.

Sorbic acid (E200) is very widely used to prevent the growth of moulds and yeasts in products like wine, dairy products such as cheese, meats and seafood, baked goods and various fruit and vegetable products. The acid is found naturally in several plants.


Coffee has more than 800 different aromachemicals.

One of the most important qualities of our food is the flavour – it has to taste good. All flavours are a subtle mix of the five basic tastes – salt, sweet, bitter, sour and savoury – combined with the aromas that the foods give off, which are a crucial part of the way foods taste.

From a regulatory point of view, the flavourings that are used in food are Coffee has more than 800 different aromachemicals. grouped into those that are natural, and those that are man-made. Natural flavourings are obtained from natural sources, whereas the man-made ones may be synthetic versions of exactly the same chemicals that are found in nature, such as vanillin, whilst others may not be found in nature, such as ethyl vanillin. Some food flavourings rely on just one major component, but most are a mixture of many different aromachemicals.

It’s not just processed foods that contain a cocktail of flavourings – most natural foodstuffs contain very many different aromachemicals, which all contribute to the complex flavour. Tarragon essential oil, for example, has nearly 80 components, and coffee more than 800. Yet some flavours are down to just a handful, such as vanilla, where the chemical vanillin is the major ingredient.

Other characteristic flavours are created during cooking or fermentation, and many of the chemicals responsible have been identified. For example, the browning reaction that gives the characteristic caramel flavour to fried onions, pork crackling and even gravy is a chemical reaction between proteins and carbohydrates. Variations on this reaction produce many of the most delicious flavours. Allylpyrazine gives a roasted nut flavour; methoxypyrazines taste of earthy vegetables; 2-isobutyl-3-methoxypyrazine has a green pepper flavour; and acetylpyrazines taste of popcorn.

‘Cheapest’ lunchtime meal unveiled

Cheap as....

Britain’s ‘cheapest’ lunchtime meal has been unveiled – the toast sandwich.

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is reviving the mid-Victorian dish, which consists of two slices of bread around a slice of toast. The meal, costing 7.5p, was first promoted by Victorian food writer Mrs Beeton. It is taken from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management which became a best-seller when it was published 150 years ago.
To celebrate that anniversary, the RSC decided to focus on meals that reflected ‘stern days’ to come in Britain, rather than one of the book’s many ‘table-groaning creations’.

You simply put a piece of dry toast between two slices of bread and butter, with salt and pepper to taste. I’ve tried it and it’s surprisingly nice to eat and quite filling,

says the RSC’s Dr John Emsley.

I would emphasise that toast sandwiches are also good at saving you calories as well as money, provided you only have one toast sandwich for lunch and nothing else.

Global additives market on the up


Global sales of food and drink additives reached £17.3 billion last year, according to a new report.

The best performing sectors include enzymes, acidulants and hydrocolloids, says Leatherhead Food Research’s report The Global Food Additives Market, with a growing demand for low fat, salt and sugar products – as well as functional health benefit products – driving demand for a host of additives including emulsifiers, hydrocolloids, sweeteners, vitamins and minerals, soya ingredients, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, prebiotics and plant stanol esters.

The report also says that while the global additives market has not been immune to the effects of the global economic downturn, a period of modest growth is forecast for the world food additives market over the next few years.

Some of the better performing sectors are likely to include natural flavours and colours, food hydrocolloids, enzymes and functional food ingredients.

Salt in bread



A third of breads contain more salt than recommended under guidelines being introduced next year, according to campaign
group CASH (Campaign for Action on Salt and Health).

The figures came after the Department of Health announced that bread accounts for more salt in our diet than any other food, making up almost a fifth of our daily intake. However, manufacturers said many loaves with the lowest salt levels were supermarket brands, which were the most popular.


Despite salt levels in bread being reported to have fallen by about a third over the past decade, bread manufacturers are under mounting pressure to cut down further. However, in reducing salt levels further, manufacturers are faced with numerous technical challenges.

Firstly, salt influences the production process by improving the dough handling properties and also helps control yeast activity during fermentation. In addition, it influences the sensory properties of bread and is directly linked to consumer acceptance. For these reasons, it would be difficult to completely eliminate salt from the recipe. The main challenge in making low salt bread is that is becomes sticky and is less easy to process with lowering salt levels, meaning that there is a potential for the dough to stop processing lines, leading to down time and wastage.

Salt also plays a major role in achieving the flavour of the bread and, of course, on product shelf life. Products with reduced salt may require balancing of the flavours to achieve an acceptable product.

* Take the bread health scare with a pinch of salt…