Real Industry Case Study by Wilma Carmichael, Development Product Manager, Vion Halls
Recent guidelines from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have been driving all product categories to reduce saturated fats in food. High levels of saturates in the diet can contribute primarily to cardiovascular disease. The FSA’s objective is to reduce average intake of saturated fat from the level of 13.3% to 11% of food energy by 2010.
Meat and meat products represent the greatest contribution of 22% to the daily saturated fat intake. Sausages are typically 35-45% saturates. In meat, it is difficult to exactly target only the saturates in the product, so total fat reduction is required.
Meat will have both external visual fat, "intermuscular", and fat within muscles, known as "intramuscular". There is a natural variation depending on the diet and breed of the animal. Fat levels in pork carcasses have reduced since the 1970s due to changes in breeding, pig feed reformulation and improved butchery techniques. Intrinsic fat in pork is difficult to control when looking to reduce the fat to lean ratio of minced and whole muscle meats.
There are 4 main areas which the FSA is targeting to reduce saturates in the diet:
- Reformulation of recipes – using leaner cuts of meat increases cost, so experimenting with fat replacers which function in minced meat systems is a good option.
- Portion Size – reduce the amount of meat per serving and substitute with a greater proportion of fruit, vegetable and wholegrain cereals.
- Healthier Options - buy lower or reduced fat sausage products.
- Improve Consumer Awareness - marketing campaigns to reinforce the importance of reducing total fat and saturates in the diet.
According to the FSA, the perfect fat replacer will contribute everything that a fat does but without the calories, saturate fats and cholesterol. Fat replacers can be carbohydrate, protein or fat based systems.
Carbohydrate fat replacers include:
- tapioca starch
Protein replacers include:
- pea fibre
- soya protein concentrate
- whey protein.
Fat based replacers include:
- vegetable fats – not ideal for sausages! From a functionality perspective these are very unstable and susceptible to oxidation, creating rancidity in the final product.
As with most replacements in the diet, fat replacers can have adverse effects on the digestive system. Consequently, the preferred option is to look at natural as opposed to synthetic fat replacers. A fat replacer may also increase the amount of potential allergens in the product, particularly with the protein based replacers.
In sausage based systems, the preferred option is to use fat replacers as opposed to using leaner cuts of meat which will have cost implications.
In the ingredient declaration, the fat replacer wording must be customer friendly. Retailers are under pressure to improve their colour-coding on pack GDA (Guideline Daily Allowance) panels. By using fat replacers, a "red" becomes "an amber" for saturates on pack per 100g.
Before looking to use a fat replacer, a thorough risk assessment must be carried out. The major issues to be addressed in the risk assessment would be as follows:
- Sensory Appraisal
- Nutritional Benefits
- Safety & Legal Issues
- Ease of Use Application
- Health Benefits e.g. Inulin has prebiotic properties
The major challenge is to ensure that the texture of the final product does not change when it is substituted in a sausage recipe at the initial mixing stage and over the life of the product. The product must be a direct match to the current product on the market with no noticeable textural or flavour differences to the consumer.
In sausage manufacture, recipes will be chopped or blended. In an emulsified sausage which is totally chopped, the fat replacer is evenly dispersed within the meat matrix.
Using a fat replacer in a blended sausage is more challenging as there is no chopping phase in this method of manufacture. The risk is that the fat replacer may not bind as effectively and be more easily recognisable in the sausage mix.
From a sensory perspective, triangle testing is an effective method to organoleptically assess sausages manufactured with and without fat replacers. The products must be the same dimensions and size when presented to the panellists. Cooking must be consistent in all the samples.
Triangle testing involves three samples. In the initial tasting, one sample of the sausage contains a fat replacer and the two remaining are standard products. A minimum of six panellists is recommended for the test. They say which they prefer, and try to identify which is the odd one out. This test will then be repeated to reduce bias, with two samples having a fat replacer and the remaining sample being standard product.
The findings should conclude whether there is a difference with this type of sensory appraisal. Ideally, the fat replacer should offer a direct match in the product and panellists will not notice a difference. Once the perfect recipe match is found, it’s all systems go to launch!!!