Food scientists develop lower-sodium processed turkey

Thursday, 19 March, 2020

Food scientists develop lower-sodium processed turkey

A study published in LWT-Food Science and Technology has revealed that food scientists have produced a lower-salt processed turkey, which consumers preferred to a full-salt version in a blind sensory test.

“This isn’t the Holy Grail, but it is one strategy that can help reduce salt content in processed foods,” said Amanda Kinchla, senior author and extension associate professor of food science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Processed foods are high in sodium because of the sodium diffusion that takes place inside the food during processing. Food product developers have discovered that they can manipulate the size of salt particles and use less if the salt hits the tongue first and lingers.

“That is amazing and clever, but it doesn’t work with deli meat or foods with a lot of water. The salt will dissolve; you can’t keep it on the surface,” Kinchla said.

Using Kinchla’s guidance, food scientists tested a method to reduce the excessive amount of sodium in processed turkey meat by using different sodium salt species. Using turkey breast meat as a protein model, scientists investigated whether limiting the sodium diffusion rates could reduce overall sodium while maintaining an acceptable quality of saltiness. To test this out, they incorporated sodium anionic salts, which held a larger structure or molecular weight than sodium chloride, or table salt.

“We processed a portion of turkey breast in traditional sodium chloride [table salt] and in these other salt species and measured a lot of different things: the morphology, texture and the sodium diffusion rate in the meat with different variables, such as processing time, temperature and salt conditions,” said Janam Pandya, lead researcher.

The scientists then recruited 46 people to participate in a sensory evaluation experiment of three different turkey samples: the control sample with full salt, and two with reduced sodium — one using disodium phosphate and the other a blend of sodium chloride and disodium phosphate. The participants primarily favoured the turkey processed with a 50–50 blend of sodium chloride and disodium phosphate, which had 20% less sodium than the full-salt control, compared to 41% less sodium in the disodium phosphate sample.

“Sensory results reported that the turkey prepared in a blend of two sodium salts was perceived to be as salty as the control while providing juiciness and texture scores that were preferred over the control,” the study states.

The positive results from the study indicate that this is just one of the potentially successful strategies food scientists can pursue to make processed foods healthier.

“In our study, the use of sodium salts with a larger molecular structure, such as disodium phosphate, slowed down the overall sodium diffusion rate inside the turkey meat but left enough sodium on the surface of the meat for people to perceive enough saltiness. One approach is to find several small ways across the food supply to lower sodium without compromising the quality of the product,” Kinchla said.

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