By Donna Berry, contributing writer

2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Every five years since its debut in 1980, the guidelines get tweaked to better reflect newer knowledge of nutrition and how what we eat impacts health and wellness. The American public largely ignores this government-issued advice; however, it does impact the food industry, as consumer advocacy groups use the recommendations to critique packaged foods and foodservice menus. The guidelines also influence products allowed in the National School Lunch Program, as well as on menus of federally funded prisons and businesses.

Food Pyramid
Here’s why the meat and poultry processing industries should embrace a new approach to formulating and marketing. If the proposed guidelines are accepted, the visual consumer tool referred to as the Food Pyramid is expected to change, using stronger graphics to emphasize what’s new in the Dietary Guidelines. The two key proposed changes that directly impact the protein-processing industry are the reduction of daily sodium intake from 2,300 milligrams to 1,500 milligrams and the reduction of the percentage of saturated fat in the diet from 10 percent to 7 percent. Consumers are also being urged to increase fiber intake.

At the IFT Annual Meeting + Food Expo in July, I discovered myriad ingredients available to reduce the sodium content of marinated and seasoned raw meats, as well as fully cooked proteins. Many are phosphates based on potassium or magnesium rather than sodium. Word in the nutrition community is, not only are Americans consuming too much sodium, they are not getting enough potassium and magnesium. If you are adding those ingredients, let consumers know.

Other options are flavors or seasonings that rely on nucleotides and amino acids to potentiate meat flavor without raising sodium levels. A new umami ingredient that is mushroom extract blended with palm oil and spray-dried on a maltodextrin carrier is light brown in solution and can enhance meat flavor when dissolved in an injected or tumbled raw meat marinade. The same is true for new low-sodium, low-fat frozen or powdered chicken broth, which contains amino acids and minerals that are recognized flavor potentiators.

Sea salts are another option. The secret behind sea salt is that many varieties are concentrated sources of minerals that enhance flavor. Thus, less sea salt can be used in a product formulation and still produce a similar flavor profile as traditional salt.

Increased Fiber Contents
Processed and prepared meat and poultry processors have long relied on non-digestible carbohydrates to bind and extend their offerings. Historically they have played this down. Now’s the time to flag fiber content — everybody else is (think about the Fiber One franchise). A dietary fiber supplier at IFT sampled a taco that included fiber in every component … including the ground beef. In this case, the fiber extended the meat, decreased oiliness and reduced separation. The end result was a high-fiber, low-fat taco.

Improved Nutrition Profiles
This industry is one of the last to tout the nutritional profile of its products. The fish folks flag omega-3 content, and confectioners brag about antioxidants in their chocolate products. Consult your legal department to explore these options.

This Column
I have a bachelor’s degree in food science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and have been writing on food formulating for more than 15 years. From this month on, I will provide you perspective on industry trends and complementary ingredients.