Nitrites are found naturally in sea salt and in many vegetables like spinach, beets and celery. Ingesting small amounts of nitrites from eating vegetables is harmless. But celery extracts are created in a lab when the plant’s juice is combined with bacterial cultures to create a concentrate that is much higher in nitrites.
This celery concentrate is then used as an alternative preservative because it extends shelf life and mimics the same effects as sodium nitrite, providing the classic pink colour and distinctive salty flavour of classic deli meats. Products that contain concentrated vegetable extracts can have as much or more nitrites than foods that list sodium nitrite on their label. As mentioned, nitrites are relatively inert when consumed from eating vegetables, but when nitrites are added to meat and then cooked, a chemical reaction can occur that creates nitrosamines, the cancer causing compounds. Here is a simplistic explanation: Nitrites + Meat (amino acids/protein) + Heat = Nitrosamines.
Shopping for quality healthy foods can be difficult especially when looking for prepared or processed food options that have multiple ingredients. But it’s even more difficult when the customer has to decipher how to interpret claims on product packaging. For example, many companies that use celery extract use the claim “No Added Nitrites” on their packaging. This can be misleading if you are trying to avoid nitrites. The best way to avoid confusing claims is to read the actual ingredients. If you see an ingredient and you don’t know what it is, or why it’s been added to your food, you should be able to contact the company directly to find out.
Mclean Meats is a small Canadian company of family and friends with a mission: to produce clean food products that nourish the body while supporting natural, humane and sustainable farming. All of our deli products are truly preservative free; free of sodium nitrite and free of cultured celery extracts, juice and powder.
Contact us anytime with your questions. We want to hear from you.
Fun Fact 1:
Did you ever wonder why McLean Meats calls their Bacon, Pork Breakfast Strips? The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) defines Bacon as “pork cured with nitrites”. Since we don’t add nitrites or celery extract, we cannot call our Bacon, Bacon.
Fun Fact 2:
Did you know that McLean Meats was the first company in Canada to make nitrite free deli products? Today, we are still the only company in Canada that is truly preservative free, with no added nitrites from celery extracts.
Below is the definition of “Cured” from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). This is the agency that regulates labeling of packaged food in Canada. “Cured” (MIR) means, in respect of an edible meat product, that salt together with at least 100 ppm of sodium nitrite, potassium nitrite, sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate, or any combination thereof, was added to the meat product during its preparation. Cultured celery powder (or other cultured vegetable juice powders approved for this purpose) may be used as an alternative source of nitrites in the production of cured or fermented meat products. Cultured celery powder contains preformed nitrites produced by bacterial action on nitrates present in the celery product”.