Department of Health (DH) advice on using potassium salt is being revised as part of an effort to reduce public consumption of table salt.

Over-consumption of table salt, or sodium chloride, can cause high blood pressure, leading to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes or heart attacks. However, some salt is required for the production of many food items, including by bakers, not only for flavour but also for structural reasons.

Potassium salt is one of a number of substitutes for sodium but does carry health risks, with a high concentration in the blood leading to abnormal heart rate or even heart attack, and the DH does not currently recommend its use. Potassium is a particular problem for people with kidney impairments, as potassium levels are maintained by excretion through the kidneys.

Ahead of new sodium reduction targets for 2017, however, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has been asked to assess the potential benefits of these potassium-based replacements.

The report will use data provided by the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food Consumer Products and the Environment (COT). According to the Food Standards Agency: “The COT concluded that widespread potassium-based replacement would not be a concern for most healthy individuals but could threaten the health of people with major renal impairment.”

Potassium salts have been used for many years by food manufacturers in ‘low salt’ products. Although mined from the ground like much sodium chloride, potassium is more expensive than sodium.