Food product reformulation is promoted as an effective strategy to reduce population salt intake and address the associated burden of chronic disease. Salt has a number of functions in food processing, including impacting upon physical and sensory properties. Manufacturers must ensure that reformulation of foods to reduce salt does not compromise consumer acceptability.
The aim of this systematic review is to determine to what extent foods can be reduced in salt without detrimental effect on consumer acceptability.
Fifty studies reported on salt reduction, replacement or compensation in processed meats, breads, cheeses, soups, and miscellaneous products. For each product category, levels of salt reduction were collapsed into four groups: <40%, 40–59%, 60–79% and ≥80%. Random effects meta-analyses conducted on salt-reduced products showed that salt could be reduced by approximately 40% in breads [mean change in acceptability for reduction <40% (−0.27, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.62, 0.08; p = 0.13)] and approximately 70% in processed meats [mean change in acceptability for reductions 60–69% (−0.18, 95% CI −0.44, 0.07; p = 0.15)] without significantly impacting consumer acceptability. Results varied for other products.
These results will support manufacturers to make greater reductions in salt when reformulating food products, which in turn will contribute to a healthier food supply.