Love to Eat| A new study in the Journal of Food Science contradicts the assertions of American food manufacturers that consumers demand salty food and there’s nothing they can do about it. The study published just two weeks ago by Australians at the Sensory Science Group suggestss that environment and context in which testing is done may have an important influence on research findings.
The Aussie researchers say that hash browns containing higher levels of salt were more liked than hash browns containing much lower salt levels, but added that there was no statistical difference in liking between mid range salt levels (between 120 mg of salt per 100 g to 170 mg of salt per 100 g). This study was in a laboratory setting where eaters knew they were evaluating the product.
Then the researchers went into a dining room environment, reporting that large decreases in sodium — more than 50 percent — were achievable with only minor decreases in liking the hash browns and no effect on whether they were actually eaten. Up to 80 percent of the salt was reduced with no major rejection of the hash browns.
Researchers admit that in the dining room setting, with subjects consuming other foods along with the hash browns, the total salt in the meal could could have impacted hash brown results. Nevertheless, the researchers are challenging the food industry assumption that consumers are dictating the amount of salt required in our food and sales will plunge without all the white stuff.
Given our obesity epidemic, perhaps testing if the food industry is right — that we will stop eating crap if they take out all the salt, such a test could be good for the nation’s waistline. Anne