Reducing salt in our food
Eating crisps and snacks might not sound like a very scientific job, but it’s been a crucial part of my work in the food chemistry laboratories in the last 24 months.
My main role is to oversee the running of analytical equipment but I also provide supervision for research experiments, often working closely with commercial companies to help them develop methods for analysing their products.
The SmartSalt project, run in partnership with SPG Innovation, is a government-funded initiative looking at how we can reduce the levels of salt in food.
Currently, around 95% of salt in foods is swallowed without being tasted. By understanding the way sodium is released inside the mouth we have been able to develop new structures of salt crystals that dissolve more efficiently during eating. Our new crystals break down more quickly and deliver a greater proportion of their sodium to the saliva. This will enable companies to reduce the use of sodium in their foods but without compromising taste.
"Currently, around 95% of salt in foods is swallowed without being tasted."
Tasting the food samples with the new crystals in is definitely an upside of my job, but the really hard work comes in the form of the technical analysis. We work alongside colleagues from the University’s Nanoscale and Microscale Research Centre and Hounsfield Facility to analyse what is happening to the salt in the mouth. Techniques include CT scanning, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and atomic emission spectroscopy.
We are currently working to commercialise the new salts with external partners and hope to have products available for use in the next few years.