7 thing to know about Nitrites in your Luncheon Meats

Grilled hot dogs
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1. Sodium Nitrite and its closely related Sodium Nitrate are food preservatives used primarily in prepared meat and fish such as ham, bacon, hot dogs, corned beef (spam), luncheon meats, and smoked fish.

2. Sodium Nitrite helps preserve the pink / red color of the meat which should have been grayish having been precooked. It also adds a characteristic flavor.

3. It also wards off against clostridium botulinum, the bacteria responsible for botulism, a dangerous disease causing respiratory and muscular paralysis.

4. Unfortunately, when cooked or broken down in the stomach, nitrites form nitrosamines (also called N-Nitroso Compund), which can cause cancer in young children and pregnant women.

5. Adding ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to the food product greatly reduces the formation of nitrosamines.

6. USDA Meat Inspection Regulations have limited the use of nitrite to 200 ppm.

7. Spinach, beets, lettuce, celery, parsley, and cabbages are among vegetables with high concentrations of nitrates. The amount is determined by the plant’s genetics, age, and the amount of nitrate in the soil, which have shot up because of increased use of nitrate fertilizers. But don’t stop eating these veggies, many of them also contain vitamin C, naturally limiting the formation of the toxic nitrosamines.

What you need to know:

While botulism is dangerous and nasty it is also very rare, therefore using botulism prevention as a reason to pump meats with nitrites is not acceptable. Proper refrigeration reduce the risk of clostridium botulinum bacteria as well. While the amount of nitrates has been reduced substantially over the years, why not get rid of them completely?

What to do at the supermarket:

Check the ingredient label next time you buy some deli style meats. If you want to avoid nitrates, your chances are higher with organic products.

 

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  • http://iateapie.net Tanya

    You said, “While the amount of nitrates has been reduced substantially over the years, why not get rid of them completely?” It’s nitrItes in foods not nitrates.

    And when you say, “nitrites form nitrosamines (also called N-Nitroso Compund), which can cause cancer in young children and pregnant women” – exactly how much was shown to cause cancer? And what are the studies you are referencing? And how much is used in foods?

  • angel

    @Tanya
    yeahh! i agree

  • angel

    imin school andi eat deli sandwhiches every day, is that baad??

  • Corey

    Both nitrites and nitrates are used in the preservation AND curing of meats. The fact that they prevent clostridium botulinum bacteria from growing is very important and should not be discounted because it is rare, foods are very often temperature abused, you cannot depend on the consumer to be the final critical control point. Botulism is extremely serious, it’s not just a stomach bug… depending on how much of the toxin you ingest, (a tablespoon is enough to kill the entire world population several times over) it results in paralysis and often death. Nitrites/nitrates only form nitrosamines when they are cooked to the point of nearly burnt (bacon, hotdogs, etc.). Otherwise they are not present. Also the amount of nitrate and nitrite left in the food after the curing process is often zero to negligible anyway.

    Many fresh unprocessed vegetables contain more nitrates and nitrites than any serving of deli/cured meat products – broccoli, celery, etc. for example. Which, you do site in your article.

    Sometimes I feel like this site does more fearmongering than help.

  • Brooke

    Maybe I’ll rethink my grilled broccoli . . .

    Or was that not the point of your post??

  • Corey

    Haha, touche