CSIRO is helping provide healthier, high quality foods to match consumer and industry preferences.
Helping the food industry shake the salt habit
Reformulating processed foods to reduce salt, sugar and saturated fat or to increase fruit, vegetable and fibre content offers the food industry many opportunities. (6:38)
25 November 2011 | Updated 28 November 2011
The player will show in this paragraph
Glen Paul: G'day, and welcome to CSIROpod. I’m Glen Paul. Australia is one of the most overweight nations in the developed world, with over 60 per cent of adults and one in four children overweight or obese, making it one of the greatest public health challenges confronting Australia and many other industrialised countries.
In an effort to help address this situation the food industry has started reformulating processed foods to make them healthier without impacting on the taste, safety, and quality of their products.
The CSIRO recently conducted a series of one day workshops with the food industry to discuss the many opportunities that reformulating processed foods to reduce salt, sugar, and saturated fat, or to increase fruit, vegetable, and fibre content, has to offer.
Joining me to discuss it is Dr Ingrid Appelqvist from CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences. Ingrid, how did you approach these issues with the food industry at these workshops?
Dr Appelqvist: What we wanted to do is provide the food industry with some potential solutions, so we invited scientists who have been working in this field, looking at how to reduce salt, sugar, and saturated fat, from a whole range of product categories, without impacting on the taste, and to let the food industry know the approaches that we have taken, and also to give them some guidance around what technologies are available, not just here in Australia, but also globally.
Glen Paul: So what’s the incentive for food companies to get involved?
Dr Appelqvist: The incentive is really twofold. (1) Most of the food companies have a social responsibility aspect which they tend to show very keenly on their websites, so they want to show that they are very aware of the problems that consumers face, and that they should be part of the solution. So I think that’s one part of why they should get involved.
The second one is as well that this is not just a national problem but a global problem, as you mentioned, and there are a lot of national or international initiatives which are going to impact on them as well as they start to, and are selling food globally in other different markets. They are already being impacted by other Government Agencies who are starting to provide targets for reducing salt, sugar, and saturated fat, although these are voluntary targets, as they are in Australia as well.
Glen Paul: Hmm, and are they receptive to these changes?
Dr Appelqvist: They are, I think. For the food industry on the whole they like to be involved with this because obviously if they are at the table they are negotiating with us what those targets should be, what they believe are attainable and achievable, and the timelines for it, and therefore they are having a voice. And I think that is a very strong incentive for being involved and taking part.
Glen Paul: Hmm, and a little more costly I take it to produce healthier foods?
Dr Appelqvist: They are in some cases. Having said that there is also the trend by consumers who are looking for those options, and so they may be able to charge a small premium on some of these products and gain back some of their financial cost. The other thing is that they could start to increase their market share as well, so from a commercial perspective this still could be a very good option for them.
Glen Paul: And what sorts of techniques are being developed by CSIRO to reformulate processed foods?
Dr Appelqvist: So what we’re trying to do is look four to five years hence around new technologies, or at least new approaches. Currently most companies take out sodium chloride and replace it with other salt such as potassium chloride, or magnesium chloride. Generally speaking they take out one thing and add a couple of other different ingredients, which doesn’t look very attractive on the ingredient list.
Where CSIRO is looking to do is understand the role of salt, sugar, and fat, in these types of processed products and replace the functionality, and sometimes that can mean that we can reduce sodium for example without having to add anything back. It’s just that we know where in the product format we need to add that sodium in order for it to interact very closely say with the taste receptors, so that all of the salt that’s added gives an impact of salty taste, and therefore we're able to reduce it quite dramatically.
Glen Paul: OK. Just there with taste, one of the techniques I was reading of talks of replacing some of the fat in meat patties and frankfurters with fruit fibres, so does that mean a hotdog will be just as tasty, or will one have to smother it in tomato sauce?
Dr Appelqvist: No, they won’t have to smother it with tomato sauce, as that provides quite a lot of sugar, I don't think that's necessarily a good idea. But what we have been doing is partially replacing some of the functionality of fat, so fat in frankfurters for example provides not only just flavour, but it provides the lubricity or juiciness, so we're able to remove some of that fat and add plump fibres of fruit and vegetable which hold onto a lot of water, so which means that when you’re cooking the sausages you retain more moisture in them, and so they give you a very succulent taste.
And as sausages have a lot of their own flavours that are added as well you can’t taste the fibres, and most of them have an inert taste anyway, and so you get a much healthier frankfurter with a higher content of fibre, and still get the juiciness that you should expect from you bangers.
Glen Paul: Now you mentioned that it is a bit of a long term plan, but how do you intend to follow up from here?
Dr Appelqvist: So what we would like to see is that we can provide more help with companies, for example testing out some reformulations in our pilot plant facilities with for us providing some more technical advice and input to food companies to help them reformulate. So there certainly will be follow up, but not necessarily in the same format that we've had as these current workshops.
Glen Paul: Right. Well hopefully we can hear more about those at a later stage, and perhaps look forward to the day we can eat a hotdog with all the trimmings and feel less guilty about it. Thank you for your time today, Ingrid.
Dr Appelqvist: Thanks very much.
Glen Paul: Dr Ingrid Appelqvist. For more information find us online at www.csiro.au. You can like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter at CSIROnews.