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Health benefits due to reformulation
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Food producers are reluctant to reduce the salt or fat content, as they fear a drop in consumer acceptance. A range of different researchers in different countries have demonstrated that sensory and textural properties of meat products are maintained after replacement of animal fat by olive, soybean, linseed or sunflower oil. Researchers from the governmental institute IRTA in Spain demonstrated that 33% salt reduction in combination with 50% fat reduction in fermented sausages had minimal effects on the sensory properties. In addition, the sensory quality of these low salt and low fat sausages was maintained after a three-month storage. Whether consumers accept this reduction remains to be seen.

Technological challenge

Fat and salt are both important ingredients for food taste and texture. Many aroma compounds are stored in fats, while salt serves as a taste enhancer. Salt also contributes to other quality parameters such as shelf life, water holding capacity, colour and fat binding properties of processed meat products. Fat plays a major role in texture and mouthfeel affecting creaminess, hardness, chewiness etcetera. Also, reducing the fat content automatically results in an increase in the proportion of other ingredients. For example, the water content is higher in reduced fat sausages, which impacts on the drying of foods. Therefore, it is a technological challenge to keep the quality of foods high when reducing their salt and fat content.

Three recipes compared

IRTA researchers in Spain wanted to know if a good quality sausage can be achieved when both fat and salt are reduced. They compared the sensory properties of three different fermented pork sausages, so called fuets. They were prepared by adding either 20% back fat, 3% back fat or 3% sunflower oil during the grinding process. The 20% back fat is the standard amount of fat and the 3% back fat and sunflower oil versions are fat reduced sausages. In all three sausages a low salt content was used. The salt was partially replaced by potassium chloride and potassium lactate. A vegetable juice concentrate was used as a natural source of nitrate, which acts as a preservative.

Sunflower oil is suitable as a replacement for saturated animal fat

Limitations to overcome

A sensory panel gave similar ratings to all three sausages for ‘overall sensory quality’, which is a desirable result. However, there were sensory differences between the different recipes on other attributes.  The sausages that contained less fat were bitterer than the sausage with the normal fat content. The potassium that was used in all recipes to replace salt has a bitter taste. The higher water content in reduced fat sausages most likely enhanced the bitterness. Furthermore, the reduced fat sausages were redder, had more wrinkles and received lower scores in hardness, ‘springiness’ and fat mouth feel than the normal fat sausages. The reduced fat sausages with 3% back fat, but not the sausage with 3% sunflower oil, received lower scores for flavour intensity and ripened flavour than the normal fat sausages. Taken together, the results indicate that it is possible to reduce both fat and salt in sausages, but consumer acceptability still needs to be tested.


In most Western countries, the intake of both saturated fat and sodium is higher than recommended. This poses a threat to public health, especially because of their relationship with adverse cardiovascular effects including coronary heart disease, stroke and hypertension. According to the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, the average daily intake of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol is currently too high. In addition, humans need circa 1.5 grams of salt on a daily basis, whereas on average 10 grams of salt is consumed. These recommendations have contributed to an increased interest on healthier diets among consumers and to the development of reduced fat products by the meat industry.


Traditional Spanish sausages, fuets, contain 42% fat and 3.7% salt. Fat and salt reduced sausages are a healthier option than traditional sausages, which is of interest to a particular group of consumers. At least 30% fat reduction is needed to claim ‘reduced fat’ and 25% salt reduction is needed to claim ‘reduced salt’, according EU regulations. 


These results imply that it is possible to achieve a fat and salt content in sausages that is healthier than the current sausages, for example by fat and salt reduction and/or by partial substitution of pork fat by sunflower oil. However, more work is needed to optimise the recipes.

Sensory quality of reduced salt and fat sausages maintained after three-month MAP storage.


Mora-Gallego, H., Serra, X., Guàrdia, M.D., Arnau, J. (2014). Effect of reducing and replacing pork fat on the physicochemical, instrumental and sensory characteristics throughout storage time of small caliber non-acid fermented sausages with reduced sodium content. Meat Science, 97 (1), 62-68.

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