The Salt Manufacturers’ Association (SMA) is reminding bakers of the benefits of salt, otherwise know as sodium chloride, and says that it should not simply be dismissed as unhealthy.

The SMA says that as every baker knows salt enhances flavour, increases the shelf-life of baked goods and performs specific functions when combined with other ingredients, such as yeast.

"Salt is particularly important to bakers," said spokesperson Rachel Hedges. "Everyone knows it affects the action of the yeast, the fermentation of the dough and the gluten in the flour. Without it, loaves would be sticky and unleavened with large holes."

Salt replacements include potassium chloride, ammonium chloride, citrates, formates and glutamates.

The SMA claims that taste testers, however, have complained about the bitterness of potassium chloride. The Scientific Committee for Food warns that its use could result in excessive potassium intakes, which may cause toxicity to develop in people with undetected renal problems.

"Reducing the levels of sodium chloride in our food is far more complicated than we are led to believe," said Peter Sherratt, general secretary of the SMA, who questions whether less salt in our diets will benefit the majority of people.

He says: "These new salt substitutes have not been subject to long-term health assessments. Despite this, they are somehow considered safer than salt - the oldest preservative known to man and a naturally occurring mineral."