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7 things you know nitrite at a luncheon meat

17 March 2009 613 views No Comment

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 soile 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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