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How to Avoid Added Nitrates and Nitrites in Your Food

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

 

Originally published on Healthy Child Healthy World by Megan Boyle.

Do you pack sandwiches for lunch or grab a hot dog at a BBQ? These foods may contain added chemicals you should know about: nitrates and nitrites.

Manufacturers add nitrates and nitrites to foods such as cured sandwich meats, bacon, salami or sausages to give them color and to prolong their shelf life. When added to processed foods in this way, both nitrates and nitrites can form nitrosamines in the body, which can increase your risk of developing cancer.

The major concern is a class of synthetic food preservatives that includes sodium or potassium nitrates and nitrites, which food companies put in cured meat to preserve its color, prevent fats from going rancid and keep bacteria from growing.

These chemicals also contaminate drinking water because of nitrogen-based fertilizers as well as livestock and human waste. This is most dangerous for infants, who can develop a rare but serious condition known as methemoglobinemia, or “blue baby syndrome,” from drinking contaminated water. Nitrates and nitrites may also affect pregnancy outcomes. The EPA has more details about nitrite in drinking water here.

Keep in mind that there’s a difference between the nitrates that are added to foods and those that occur naturally in produce such as spinach and celery. The naturally occurring nitrates in food come with vitamin C and other compounds that inhibit conversion into nitrosamines. There is no data to suggest that naturally occurring nitrates are harmful, so keep on eating those healthful foods.

Read the full story here.

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