Is "Mediterranean Umami" the cure for our salt-saturated diet?

Mike Pomranz
June 13, 2017

Processed meats are one of life’s great pleasures (even if a guilty one sometimes). But like most of life’s great pleasures, we continue to learn that these meats probably aren’t so healthy. In 2015, processed meats landed in “group 1” of the World Health Organizations list of likely carcinogens. And that doesn’t even touch on all the other things these products can be packed with: fat, cholesterol, preservatives and – a big one – salt. But finally, here’s a little bit of good news for bologna lovers: A company in Israel claims they created an ingredient that can cut the sodium in processed meat by up to a third without sacrificing the taste.

“Mediterranean Umami” is a salt substitute – also called a “sodium-reduction solution” – from Israel-based brand Salt of the Earth that has been seeing its sales climb as processed meat producers look for ways to reduce salt in accordance to new recommendations from groups like the WHO and the FDA. Mediterranean Umami does contain some natural sea salt (which is Salt of the Earth’s primary business), but it adds vegetal concentrates and extracts to create a clean-label ingredient that the company claims can reduce sodium in beef and poultry products by between 25 and 33 percent and eliminate the need for MSG entirely, all without greatly affecting taste and texture. Salt of the Earth referred to it as having “cracked the code.”

“The food industry is under significant pressure to reformulate products to reduce sodium content,” David Hart, Salt of the Earth’s business unit director, told Global Meat News. “We enjoy working in partnership with our customers to help them create healthier products. Mediterranean Umami is highly relevant to the meat industry, an ‘on-trend’ solution that allows for significant sodium reduction, while being clean-label and natural.”

Of course, as mentioned above, processed meats have other health implications beyond simply contributing to the world’s salt overdose. (A 2015 report showed that 90 percent of Americans eat too much salt.) Still, since it’s unlikely most people are going to be giving up salami anytime soon, it’s good to hear someone out there is trying to make at least one aspect of processed meat a little healthier.