Cutting down on salt, fat and sugar in diets

Types of food products tested in the TeRiFiQ project. © INRA, C. Salles

Types of food products tested in the TeRiFiQ project. © INRA, C. Salles

Cheese, chorizo, dry sausages, muffins, madeleines, custards and pizza sauce: for four years, these foods have been getting a makeover with the INRA-coordinated European project TeRiFiQ. Scientists and industry players have managed to significantly cut back on their salt, sugar and fat content without compromising their nutritional and sensorial qualities or jeopardising consumer acceptability. The final report of the project is now available online on the European Commission’s website:

Many national, European and world health organisations have sounded the alarm on the consequences of a diet high in salt, fat and sugar in developed countries, which can lead to health conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Many countries are urging the food industry to cut back on the salt, fat and sugar content of foods that are popular with consumers, and/or improve the quality of their fat content through food processing techniques.

Launched in 2012, the INRA-coordinated European project TERIFIQ (Combining Technologies to achieve significant binary Reductions in salt Fat and sugar in everyday foods whilst optimising their nutritional Quality) aims to significantly reduce sodium, fat and sugar in foods through research and technological innovation. This is a tall order, because these are the ingredients that determine different characteristics of a food such as texture, taste perception, acceptability, shelf life, and health and nutritional properties. After four years, the project is coming to a close and the goals have been largely achieved:

- In the cheeses tested (raclette, brie, Trappist cheese and soft cheeses), results differ depending on the type of cheese, but the reduction in sodium was significant across the board. Sodium content was cut by up to 36% in Trappist cheese.
- In cooked sausages, adding inulin1 and seasonings that boost the sensation of saltiness allowed for a 24% decrease in saturated fats and a 20% cut in sodium.
- In dry fermented sausages, a 35% cut in sodium and 70% cut in fat were achieved thanks to the addition of potassium chloride, yeast extracts, seasonings and emulsions... Results were also promising for chorizo.
- In other foods tested, such as muffins and madeleines, cuts of 40% and 25% in fat and sugar respectively were achieved by using different emulsions and adding plant-based polymers like inulin.
- Lastly, sauces used in prepared foods were studied. In pizza sauces, a 20% reduction in salt and a 30% reduction in fat were achieved by substituting salt and using double emulsions. In custards, both fat and sugar were cut by 30% each using stevia and double emulsions.

The scientists showed that the vast majority of the reformulated foods remained acceptable to both the industry and consumers. Furthermore, studies carried out among consumers within the framework of the project, integrating aspects of experimental economics, are underway and expected to back these findings. Now it’s a question of carrying on with the studies conducted during the TeRiFiQ project and broadening their scope, and focusing on technological transfers already underway in a number of processes.

1. Inulin is a mixture of plant-based polysaccharides that are used for cutting back on the sugar content of food. It has a sweet taste but is not metabolised by the human body. Inulin can also be used in food processing to add texture.

The final report of the project is now available on the European Commission website:

Officially launched on 1 January 2012, TeRiFiQ (Combining Technologies to achieve significant binary Reductions in salt Fat and sugar in everyday foods whilst optimising their nutritional Quality) is a European project coordinated by INRA that brings together 17 European partners including 11 SMEs from 8 European countries. The project benefited from a total budget of 4 million euros over 4 years. The first three years were dedicated to research, while the last year was dedicated essentially to the transfer of technology to the food industry.

Institutional partners include: INRA, INRA-Transfert and ACTIA in France, Wageningen University in the Netherlands, NOFIMA in Norway, IFR in the UK. SMEs include: Brasserie d’Orval and Heritage 1466 (HERVE) in Belgium; LEIV-Vidar AS and Millba AS in Norway; Boadas 1880 S.A. in Spain; Chazal group and Adria Développement in France; Centiv GMBH in Germany; S.C. Sativa-Product LTD in Romania; NIZO in the Netherlands; Federalimentare Servizi srl in Italy.

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