Governments and personal wellness groups have been discussing the harms of excessive salt consumption for years now. Several well-publicized studies have shown substantial linkages between sodium-high foods and cardiovascular disease.
While the research on this topic is constantly evolving, recent studies on the impacts of salt intake have led to a series of public health initiatives aimed a lowering sodium levels in foods. Irrespective of where your organization stands on salt content, new regulatory guidelines mean that food manufacturers must pivot and reduce salty ingredients in their products to meet FDA sodium targets.
The primary challenge with adhering to these new salt reduction initiatives is, in the food industry, consumer tastes almost exclusively drives consumer preferences. Research has shown that taste handily outweighs health considerations when it comes to selecting foods.
The latest FDA bakery guidelines have established a host of new targets that will likely entail changes to your recipes if you expect to meet regulator objectives. The primary challenge bakeries face is how to go about preserving the flavor their customers expect while reducing sodium content without raising prices.
Given that the bar was raised just a few years back, it’s worth revisiting this topic to explore what the FDA sodium targets entail. The more information you have, the better off you be in ensuring that your bakery stays on track for meeting what the FDA describes as “voluntary short- and long-term goals.”
In the sections below, we’ll look at a few reliable strategies for lowering the sodium content in your baked and prepared foods without significantly raising your expenses or altering the taste of the products you worked tirelessly to develop.
What do the current FDA sodium targets look like?
The prepared food industry has been a primary target of regulators for a considerable time now. However, by most accounts, the current regulatory environment has started to ratchet up even further. According to the CDC, a vast majority of salt consumed in the use is attributable to processed foods purchased from grocery stores and restaurants.
CDC officials estimate that as much as 70% of all sodium intake is derived from prepared foods while a much smaller fraction of salts is ingested in food prepared by consumers at home. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and FDA guidelines suggest that all US adults should limit their sodium intake to around 2,300 mg per day or about one tablespoon.
Currently, the US American adult population’s sodium intake averages are almost twice as high as the WHO and FDA’s recommended amount. The FDA established its most recent guidance on salt reduction in 2016 for prepared and processed foods. The intricate and well-detailed plan outlines its short-term targets to meet within two years and long-term targets to be met after 10 years.
The sodium reduction initiative established 16 overarching food categories that are broken further into 150 independent subcategories. Each subcategory contains its own food reduction targets that were to be met in the timeframes established back in 2016.
Current FDA bakery guidelines and what to expect
Obviously, the voluntary two-year objective already lapsed in 2018, but we’re still a few years away from the FDA’s upcoming long-term sodium reduction target in 2026.
When these guidelines were first implemented, any manufacturers producing pretzels, a high-sodium food, where give an initial target of reducing salt content in pretzel products by the 16% from a baseline the FDA established in 2010.
Over the long-term, the FDA suggests pretzel manufacturers lower sodium content by 38%. Of course, for a product that relies so heavily on salt to provide its characteristic flavor, this 38% figure is nothing to scoff at.
The FDA expects companies that produce dry mixed mashed potatoes by 28% before 2018. The UK followed suit, implementing new sodium reduction guidelines for prepared foods in 2020. Yet some question whether or not the established expectations are realistic.
The skepticism isn’t entirely off base. Many food and beverage manufacturers have failed to meet the recommended guidelines. As the targets become more stringent, however, you should set expectations to align your manufacturing with them now. The best approach is to prepare your food business to meet FDA these recommendations as if they were mandatory.
Reliable strategies for salt reduction
While the FDA provides well-defined objectives for salt reduction, the initiative still leaves much to be answered concerning how to achieve these goals. There are several factors to consider before tackling the FDA’s new sodium reduction targets, with cost and taste chief among them. Determining the best approach for refining your manufacturing processes while retaining the same taste as your existing products and keeping costs low can be a challenge.
Your options for reducing salt are twofold. You can reduce the amount of salt in your prepared food items or you can consider replacing the ingredient with a sodium reducer.
For reasons that are more than clear, neither strategy offers a perfect solution. Presumably, government regulators would prefer you go with the first option and remove the salt entirely to condition the public into accepting less salty foods.
The problem is the near-40% sodium reduction targets are so high that, a gradual approach to removing salt content probably won’t be sufficient. At the same time, adding replacements introduces logistical and process challenges that could result in inconsistent products or food items that taste drastically different than how they were initially conceived.
Sodium reducers, however, seem to be the more favorable option when compared to eliminating the salt content entirely to meet regulator targets. Studies show that adding potassium to prepared food may present cardiovascular benefits like lowering blood pressure. If you add too much potassium chloride to your prepared foods, though, they’re likely to present a metallic flavor that could put off loyal consumers.
How to approach salt reduction and keep costs low
Ignoring the FDA’s salt reduction targets at this stage is ill-advised. Even if the current initiative isn’t mandatory, you may find yourself having to display bold label warnings that flag your prepared foods as unhealthy.
Fortunately, integrated industrial automation solutions like enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for the food and beverage industry can help you respond to the FDA’s latest sodium targets faster. Automated software applications and information controls from EZSoft help businesses like yours satisfy government dietary requirements without compromising product cost and taste.
To learn more about adhering to FDA food regulations while keeping your costs low and products unchanged with an ERP system, reach out to the automation experts at EZSoft by completing our request for contact form online or calling (484) 568-5040 now.