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Cutting Salt Won't Affect Foods' Safety

High-sodium processed foods are major contributor to heart trouble, researchers note

THURSDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Reducing the amount of salt in processed foods does not increase the risk of those foods spoiling, new research shows.

Cutting down on salt in processed foods may result in products that are healthier for consumers' hearts, but manufacturers have long been concerned about the longevity of these de-salted products.

Now, a research team at the University of Limerick in Ireland has checked safety levels of low-salt foods by studying the behavior of different strains of bacteria that contribute to food spoilage.

"In general, we discovered that the growth of different sorts of typical food spoilage bacteria was unaffected by the various salt levels we tested, which means that low salt foods are just as safe as conventionally processed ones," said researcher Edel Durack in a prepared statement.

Reporting this week at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting in Edinburgh, the researchers found that all the bacteria studied were capable of growing in the highest level of salt concentration. Some bacteria even flourished in the high-salt environment. Reducing those salt levels did not significantly increase bacterial activity.

"At the moment, our results are helping processors reduce salt levels in frozen ready-to-eat meals. Generally, these meals carry a large percentage of the recommended daily allowance of salt. This type of food is becoming increasingly popular and is in high demand due to its convenience and time restrictions placed on consumers due to modern-day lifestyles," said Durack.

The American Heart Association recommends that all adults eat less than 2,300 milligrams of salt every day. That's the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt.

The researchers expressed hope that the results could lead to the development of new low-salt food options that can help people lower their risk of heart disease.

More information

To learn more about salt in the diet, visit the American Heart Association.

-- Madeline Vann

SOURCE: Society for General Microbiology, news release, Sept. 3 2007

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