Are bakery companies alone being targeted in a bid to reduce salt in foods?

This was the question asked by Pat Smyth, of the Yeast Products Com- pany, at ’A Bakers Dozen’ workshop, organised by Relay*, in Dublin on 8 March. "This is damaging the perception of bread as a product," he said. "Based on current fermentation technologies and taste requirements, we bakers find it very difficult to reduce salt any further."

Dr Wayne Anderson, chief specialist food science, of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), responded by saying that all sorts of foods, not just bakery, are being targeted to reduce salt consumption from 10g to 6g per day by 2010. His paper, at the Relay event, covered the FSAI’s work on the voluntary reduction of salt. He admitted that much had already been achieved by the baking industry and research is urgently required into salt reduc-tion and its effects on the baking process and flavour.

A new round of discussions is to take place with the Irish Bread Bakers Association (IBBA) and with individual companies, some of which are prepared to go further in salt reduction than the IBBA, he told British Baker.

Fibre boost

Speaker Dr Sarah Burke, University College Cork (UCC) said that, as bread is consumed so regularly and by so many, it is the ideal food to help increase fibre intake. She added that wholemeal bread could substitute white, that more wholemeal bread could be eaten at lunch and more bread at weekends.

Seventy-seven per cent of Irish adults and 61% of children do not meet the recommended intake of fibre and this could be met by adding fibre to bakery products. A survey on food consumption by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance showed that consumption of wholemeal bread is particularly low among children - around 40% consume wholemeal as compared to 98% who eat white - and a higher intake of fibre needs to be promoted. The survey noted that wholemeal bread is consumed at breakfast but white is more popular at lunch, and consumption of all types of bread is reduced at weekends. Bakers at the event suggested that fibre can be added to white bread, thus making it easier to persuade children to eat wholemeal.

Twenty per cent of bakery production is being lost due to mould spoilage, according to UCC research, which shows that the use of specific sourdoughs can reduce spoilage but, combined with calcium propionate, can increase the shelf life of wheat bread considerably more. New lab-on-a-chip and bioanalyzer technology identifies quickly the proteins in wheat grains and in particular the glutens. This in turn will lead to swift identification of the baking potential of specific wheat varieties from particular geographical locations.

Transglutaminase, a naturally occurring enzyme, can promote a protein network formation in gluten-free flours, one research project has shown.

substitute for gluten

New research has been approved to look into the use of a functional casein-based ingredient to substitute gluten in bread. A freeze-dried ingredient could be produced for incorporation into the dough-making process. The demand for gluten-free products will continue to increase and UCC and the Ashtown Food Research Centre, Dublin, which hosted the conference, are working together and are among the most prolific researchers in the world into this area.

Other research projects under way include low glycaemic index (GI) breads. The GI diet, where food is slowly digested, controlling satiety and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, has proven popular. High GI, on the other hand, is claimed to contribute to type-two diabetes, forms of cancer, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. At the moment, the starch in most bread is more on the high-GI side so research into slowly digestible, fibre-rich starch and functional ingredients with a low GI is taking place. n

* Relay, a one-stop-shop for food research information, is funded by various government, public and EU bodies