|Janice Johnson, PhD|
Technical Service Lead
New sodium and potassium guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) in January have food manufacturers looking for ways to respond without compromising taste, texture or shelf life.
The guidelines call for adults to consume less than 2,000 mg sodium (5 g salt) and at least 3,510 mg potassium each day. In the WHO's first-ever sodium guidelines for children, it recommends a downward adjustment of sodium according to the child's energy requirements.
The guidelines differ from current US Department of Agriculture guidelines, which call for healthy adults not in at risk populations to consume less than 2,300 mg sodium and at least 4,700 mg potassium daily. A diet low in sodium and high in potassium can reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
The guidelines have far-reaching effects, because salt has key functional roles in so many foods, particularly processed ones. Processed meat, dairy, snacks, cereals, condiments, canned soup and yeast-leavened bakery items all rely on salt for flavor enhancement, microbial management or modification of protein. Processing also reduces potassium levels in many foods.