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Food Safety Focus (152nd Issue, March 2019) – Food Safety Platform

Product Reformulation to Reduce Salt Content in Food (Part II)

Reported by Mr. Nicky HO, Scientific Officer
Risk Communication Section, Centre for Food Safety

In the last issue, we discussed target setting in salt/sodium reduction in food. This time, we talk about salt reduction in food through product reformulation. 

Variation of Salt Content in Food

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) regularly conducts studies on nutrient content in different food products in Hong Kong. The study results often show that within the same type of food, the salt content can vary widely. This is observed in food types, such as bread, soups, Hong Kong style savoury dishes and "Meal-on-One-Plate", reflecting the feasibility of the trade to reduce the salt content in their food products.

Figure 2. Using natural ingredients or herbs and spices for flavouring and marinating and using fresh meat to replace marinated or preserved meat help reduce salt content in food.

Figure 2. Product reformulation to reduce salt content in food helps reduce population salt intake and the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Product Reformulation to Reduce Salt Content in Food

The World Health Organization opines that reformulation of food products to contain less salt is among others one of the “Best Buy” intervention to reduce salt intake of the population. The CFS had published “Trade Guidelines for Reducing Sodium in Foods” to encourage the trade to produce and promote wholesome and safe food which have lower salt content.

Ways to Reduce Salt Content in Food

The trade may follow the advice in the CFS’ guidelines to reduce salt contents in food products, including:

Salt Reduction in Bread

From a recent study conducted by the CFS on salt content in bread, sesame bun, white bread, wholemeal bread and sausage bun were found having relatively high salt content.  The trade may reduce their salt content by purchasing butter and sausage with lower salt content and gradually reduce the salt added in the dough with acceptable change in the texture of the bread. Moreover, the study showed that there is variation in the salt content in the same bread type, reflecting that salt reduction in bread is feasible. 

Salt Reduction in Soup

From the study conducted by the CFS in 2016, Tom Yum Goong soup, Hot and Sour soup and Borsch were found having relatively high salt content. The trade may reduce their salt content by using natural ingredients or herbs and spices to replace seasonings and sauce for flavouring, and using fresh meat to replace marinated or preserved meat. 

Salt Reduction Target in Hong Kong

We have been discussing with the trade on product reformulation on reducing salt content in food. The CFS has started to exchange views with the trade to reduce the salt content in soup and bread to set relevant voluntary salt reduction target for the food products. The CFS will continue the work for other food products (e.g. noodles-in-soup, Hong Kong style savoury dishes and “Meal-on-One-Plate”). The government will continue to work with the food trade on reducing salt content in food and to facilitate their work on product reformulation.