Bakers Journal

Features Nutrition Technical
A Grain of Salt


November 30, 2007
By Jane Ayer

Topics

At the end of October, Canadian Health Minister Tony Clement announced plans to establish a Working Sodium Group, which would look at ways of reducing salt intake and cardiovascular disease in Canadians.

At the end of
October, Canadian Health Minister Tony Clement announced plans to
establish a Working Sodium Group, which would look at ways of reducing
salt intake and cardiovascular disease in Canadians. On the same day a
coalition of 17 health organizations held a press conference to demand
immediate action from government and industry
in reducing the sodium in the foods people eat, which it blames for high rates of hypertension and heart disease.


My initial reaction to the news of both? Exasperation. “When will this stop?” I thought. The industry is already more than inundated with concerns over trans fats and saturated fats and allergens and the whole slew of other issues that are suddenly the health concern du jour. How much more can the average baker be expected to deal with? The answer to that, I suspect, is much, much more. Our current societal state of mind is one of fear. We’re scared of everything. We’re scared of the air we breathe, of the toys our kids play with, of the streets we live on…and we’re definitely scared of the food we eat. Are these fears valid? Probably not. We live in a world where access to information has never been greater. And because of that, we hear about everything. We’re overwhelmed with news. And news is, generally, bad. I mean, you never hear about the thousands of people who bought a product and enjoyed it with their family and that was that. But the three customers who bought the spinach that made them sick? It’s everywhere. And that’s not going to change. 

Concern over sodium intake is not breaking news. Doctors have been warning their patients to reduce the amount of salt they consume for years now. And, during this time, many food makers have been looking for ways to help their customers do that. While doing some research on the topic of salt and baking on the Internet, I found an article in the Foodservice Research International journal of a study conducted at the
University of Maryland on the topic of reduced salt in baked goods and consumer acceptability. The study was carried out not one year ago, or five years ago, or even 10 years ago. The article detailing the study was published in February 1991.

So what’s the baking industry to do? Well, to start, it’ll be represented by the BAC on Health
Canada’s working group (as you can see in this issue’s BAC Newsletter). The BAC will be able to tell Health Canada just how crucial salt is in baked goods, not only for flavour, but also for product functionality, like proper dough development and moisture retention. A sampling of a few salt-free baked goods should do more than enough to persuade the working group that requiring the baking industry to work with too little salt is a bad idea. You can also do your own part to start working on reducing salt levels. Play around with the amount you currently add to your products, let your staff and customers sample them and offer feedback. Maybe you can cut the salt you add to your bread dough from 2.2 per cent to two per cent. Every bit makes a difference.

Then, maybe, you can take a minute to breathe.

Oh…wait a minute. Don’t forget you need to deal with emission standards, and concern about over-packaging, and energy use. There’s no rest for the weary.

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