A “reduced salt” label on a food product will make a consumer experience a reduced level of taste, even if it is not in fact lower in salt.
A Deakin University study, which recruited 50 participants to taste soups with the same salt content, but it labelled some as “reduced salt.”
Those labelled as low sodium actually had the same salt content as the other soups, but participants reported that they found them less tasty.
After the initial tasting of each soup, participants were could add salt to all the soups they thought needed it.
“We found that when a product was labeled as ‘reduced salt’, people believed the food was not as tasty as the unlabeled version, despite it having the same salt content,” Deakin health expert Dr Gie Liem.
“This negative taste experience resulted in more people adding more salt to the soup, than when such a label was not present.
“Interestingly, the Heart Foundation tick did not influence taste perception.”
As cardiologists and nutritionalists keep advising low-salt diets as the ideal way to curb the ever-increasing rates of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, the findings from this study could impact the way salt reduced products are marketed, according to Liem.
“The reduction of salt in processed foods is needed and highly encouraged.,” he said.
“Often consumers can hardly taste the difference between salt reduced and non-salt reduced products.
“However, the results of our study indicate we need to be careful about how salt reduced products are marketed, so that consumers will not be turned off these products from a taste perspective.”
Most people today consume eight to nine grams of salt each day, while the recommended dose is no more than four grams daily.
“This study highlights that promoting salt reduction as part of front-of-pack labeling can have a negative effect on how consumers perceive the taste of the product and on salt use.
“Therefore it’s important for researchers, public health professionals, industry and governments to work together to carefully consider how best to communicate this message to consumers.”