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Why You Should Use a Refractometer to Control Salt Content in the Food Industry

Written by Janice M on . Posted in Food & Beverage

There is a great focus on measuring salt in the food industry in South Africa. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi signed legislation in 2013 to reduce salt in the food industry, mainly because South Africans have one of the highest rates of hypertension worldwide.

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How Much Salt is Enough?

Many food products, especially bread, margarine, soup powders, cereals and snacks, exceed the international recommended guidelines of less than 600 mg / 100 g of product.

The new South African Regulations are more specific to product type and are listed below:

REDUCTION OF TOTAL SODIUM (Na) CONTENT OF CERTAIN FOODSTUFFS

Foodstuff Category Maximum Total Sodium per 100 g foodstuff Dates on which the Total Sodium reduction becomes effective
1. Bread 400 mg Na 30 June 2016
380 mg Na 30 June 2019
2. All breakfast cereals and porridges, whether ready-to-eat, instant or cook up, hot or cold 500 mg Na 30 June 2016
400 mg Na 30 June 2019
3. All fat spreads and butter spreads 550 mg Na 30 June 2016
450 mg Na 30 June 2019
4. Ready-to-eat savoury snacks, excluding salt-and-vinegar flavoured savoury snacks 800 mg Na 30 June 2016
700 mg Na 30 June 2019
5. Flavoured potato crisps, excluding salt-and-vinegar flavoured potato crisps 650 mg Na 30 June 2016
550 mg Na 30 June 2019
6. Flavoured, ready-to-eat, savoury snacks and potato crisps salt-and-vinegar only 1 000 mg Na 30 June 2016
850 mg Na 30 June 2019
7. Processed meat (classes 6, 12 or 14 of the South African National Standard SANS 885:2011) uncured 850 mg Na 30 June 2016
650 mg Na 30 June 2019
8. Processed meat (classes 6, 12 or 14 of the South African National Standard SANS 885:2011) – cured 950 mg Na 30 June 2016
850 mg Na 30 June 2019
9. Raw-processed meat sausages (all types) and similar products 800 mg Na 30 June 2016
600 mg Na 30 June 2019
10. Dry soup powder (not the instant type) 5 500 mg Na 30 June 2016
3 500 mg Na 30 June 2019
11. Dry gravy powders and dry instant savoury sauces 3 500 mg Na 30 June 2016
1 500 mg Na 30 June 2019
12. Dry savoury powders with dry instant noodles to be mixed with a liquid 1 500 mg Na 30 June 2016
800 mg Na 30 June 2019
13. Stock cubes, stock powders, stock granules, stock emulsions, stock pastes or stock jellies 18 000 mg Na 30 June 2016
13 000 mg Na 30 June 2019

See Definitions and more detail on Government Notice No. R. 214, 20 March 2013 – Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act 54 of 1972), Regulations relating to the Reduction of Sodium in Certain Foodstuffs and Related Matters.

Reasons for measuring salt include:

  • Health reasons high salt content in the diet is a leading cause of stroke and heart disease
  • Quality control checking for consistency in taste, with salt being arguably the most important factor. For example, a potato chip manufacturer can check and adjust the amount of salt sprinkled on chips at the beginning of the production process. Soup and sauce caterers can check the final product before distribution. This will ensure a higher level of customer satisfaction
  • Quality control of colour salt can help to maintain the colour of food. For example, a frozen vegetable processor could be adding salt to the blanching water. Doing salt checks at fixed time intervals can ensure a consistent result
  • Use of salt as a preservative in certain products, such as pickles or brine in canned tuna

Why use a handheld refractrometer?

Handheld refractometers, such as the handheld Atago PAL-Salt Mohr, are best used for quick and easy digital checks on the production floor. In order to give a reading which will be similar to that obtained by the more expensive and time consuming method of titration, the PAL-Salt Mohr features an offset function that allows for readings to be compensated based on known standards.

To see a correlation between results obtained by different measurement methods, a conversion table between the two different measurement methods can be created.

The amount of other electrolytes, besides salt, that are found in food is minute, usually less than 1%.

NOTE: The South African legislation’s method specifies food checks be performed according to a “suitable potentiometric method or elemental analysis with AA (Flame atomic absorption spectroscopy) or ICP (Inductively Coupled Plasma).” *

* Government Notice No. R. 214, 20 March 2013 Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act 54 of 1972), Regulations relating to the Reduction of Sodium in Certain Foodstuffs and Related Matters.
Atago PAL-Salt Mohr

Atago PAL-Salt Mohr

5 Simple Tips for Best Use of a Salt Refractometer:

  1. Clean sensor part of meter before use with a little Salt (NaCl) solution. To prepare the solution, add 10 ml salt to 100 ml water. Wipe solution off with tissue paper. This activates the sensor.
  2. When the Salt Refractometer has not been used in a few days, wipe sensor with the Salt solution a few times.
  3. Zero the meter after wiping the sensor part. After successful zeroing, one can proceed with measurements.
  4. After using the Salt Refractometer, clean the sensor part with tap water or distilled water. If the sample contains oil, wipe the sensor clean with ethyl alcohol. Do not use neutral detergent.
  5. Store the Salt Refractometer in a dry place.

Historical comments (3)

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    • Janice M

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