Could processed meat be made less carcinogenic with celery juice or other fermented vegetable broths enriched with nitrite?
No. The source of nitrites is irrelevant in the formation of nitrosamines and N-nitroso compounds.
“Natural” sources of nitrate, such as celery juice or spinach extract, contain high concentrations of nitrate which has to be processed to reduce this to nitrite for use in the meat product.
Also, adding nitrites from vegetable extracts for a technological function and/or as a preservative, is banned by the European Union.
Does the use of nitrate/nitrite in processed foods pose a risk for consumer health?
Yes. The IARC Working Group of the World Health Organization classified processed meats as a Group I carcinogen (similar to tobacco or asbestos) after concluding that processed meat consumption can lead to the formation of carcinogenic N-nitroso-compounds and which are linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancers.
What are nitrates and nitrites?
Nitrates (NO3) and nitrites (NO2) are chemicals that are used widely as preservatives in processed meats. Nitrates are compounds that are found everywhere: in water, plants, soil an even in raw meat.
Nitrites are active ingredients that are used as food additives to extend the shelf life and to give the typical pink color of cured meats. When using nitrates as food additives, they haveto be converted to nitrite before it can have any effect.