Cultured celery extract is a concentrate prepared from celery. The extracts come in powder or liquid and are commonly used as a food preservative in “natural” deli meats and organic bacon instead of sodium nitrite because celery extracts are “naturally derived nitrites”.  Regardless, cultured celery extracts are biochemically identical to sodium nitrite when added to deli meat. 


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”.

30 thoughts on “What is Celery Extract & Why is it added to Deli-Meat?

  1. Jo Cartee says:

    All forms of celery will kill me. More and more foods are using celery powder, and it isn’t always listed in the ingredients. Fewer and fewer options for dining out and more time researching all foods I eat. Even old standby restaurants are changing sauces, etc to products that include cultured celery powder. In tomato sauce? Really? So if I stick nitrite and nitrate free, I should be safer, right?

    • McLean Meats says:

      It might depend on the product but deli meats are not allowed to say nitrite free on the label if celery is added. They can say things like “made with natural ingredients “, which technically means nothing because the word natural is not regulated.

  2. Lily Perla says:

    Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for your honesty, and integrity, involving things people eat! The tricks that are posed to the general public, are terrible, and misleading! People who are reading labels, and trying to gain info on healthier eating, are in the dark! The stores get bigger, and about the best products, are now, yours, and unsweet tea!

  3. Peter Latimer says:

    I have a severe allergy to sulphites (preservatives) which is added to many foods, especially processed food. assuming your products would be a safe choice?

  4. Matt says:

    Wow it’s so refreshing to read about McLean meats. I wish you had product in Florida — all processed meat labels include celery powder now. May your business grow swiftly.

  5. Liz Hunter says:

    Hi there, so excited to find a company that actually tells the truth. I have a husband who is sensitive to nitrates, and it is very hard to find any meats that are truly nitrate-free. Please let me know where your products are sold close to me in Nova Scotia. Do you sell online?
    Thank you.

  6. Ken says:

    Almost all products labeled “Natural” “No hormones” No nitrites” “No MSG” “No GMO” have become major selling points on everything in a grocery store. If the product has too many statements like these do not buy please. They are outright mis-informing the consumer about the product they sell. Celery powder was hardly used a 20yrs ago now it is in everything and because of a product marketing perception. Organic has been used as a gimmick marketing tool also beware. Thanks for your info.

  7. Deanna Bell says:

    Hi Hannah, celery powder is an extract of celery used to cure meats in the same way as sodium nitrite.
    Hope that helps. Celery juice is the same.

  8. Hannah Keeler says:

    Hi! Is there a difference between celery extract and cultured celery powder? I know the extract is bad, but is the powder bad?

  9. Susan McEwen says:

    WOW! I am super excited to have across your product line (company), as I am one of those people allergic to celery. So many deli meats are going “natural” these days and slowly my list of what I can eat goes down. In certain parts of Europe it is such a serious allergy (up there with nuts) that it is labelled on all products. I will be out looking for your products this weekend.

  10. kathy says:

    I notice that some company’s seem to be starting to list ‘spice extract’ instead of ‘celery extract’, I hope that means the government is close to finding a legal way to outlaw the hiding of nitrites in plain sight. Do you have any inside info on that battle?

    • Deanna Bell says:

      Hi Kathy, I apologize for not replying to you sooner. This is a great question and I’ll get back to you early next week. Thanks!

  11. gail kanasevich says:

    I just bought 2 packages of DUKE’S ORIGINAL RECIPE and DUKE’S HOT AND SPICY smoked SHORTY sausages at a SOBEY’S in Dartmouth NS Canada. An AMERICAN PRODUCT. Digging deeper into the product labeling and knowing enough after 35 years of following product content led me to this site tonight. CULTURED CELERY POWDER (CULTURED CELERY POWDER, SEA SALT) on the label. So you really did not directly answer RICK’S QUESTION…. or did you and I am not following the links properly.

    • Deanna Bell says:

      Hi Gail,
      I don’t know what you mean by answering Rick’s question? He was responding to another comment about celery being an allergen. I was talking about celery extracts being nitrites. What is your question? Celery and other veggies have natural nitrites. These can be extracted and concentrated in a lab and added to meats to help preserve them, same as sodium nitrite. We do not use this, which means we have a shorter shelf life on products because they are preservative free. Please let me know what your question is. Thanks.

    • Deanna Bell says:

      Thank you for your question. Whole Foods in Ottawa has turkey bacon, pork bacon, many sausages, sliced turkey/ham/beef/chicken, jerky. Farm Boy has deli served Tuscany turkey/garlic herb turkey and black forest ham. Most Sobey’s have deli served Tuscany turkey and black forest ham. Most Metro’s have sliced turkey/ham/beef, and deli served Tuscany turkey, roast beef and low sodium turkey. That about sums it up, let us know what you think when you try.

      Kind regards,

  12. Alicia says:

    How is it possible to have a meat product that doesn’t require refrigeration without added preservatives (such as your pepperoni bites)? Just curious! Thanks 🙂

    • Deanna Bell says:

      Hi Alicia,
      Meat preservation has a lot to do with moisture control and the cooking process. The Pep Bites are a more dry product than our other meats that require refrigeration. Smoking and salt also preserve meat. I hope this answers your question. Let me know if you need more info. Thanks,

  13. Stavros says:

    So, there is no celery extract or any nitrates or anything that’s harmful to one’s health in your bacon or other meats ? I eat a lot of bacon this past year (on a ketogenic diet), and I didn’t know the celery extract was also a nitrate. B@$t@rd$ are creative to lie to the public.. so, all this time I’ve been eating lots of nitrates and who knows if I’ve harmed my health ?? 2nd question, is the celery extract nitrate lesser same or worse than sodium nitrate to ingest regularly ? Is it at least a more healthy nitrate or ?

  14. Rick says:

    If we avoided putting everything in foods that “some” people are allergic to, there’d be nothing left to eat. In this case, celery is not being put in meat, it is only one chemical compound that is being extracted from the celery, and it is chemically analagous to lab-produced nitrites. Calling that “celery” is like calling sugar extracted from beets, “beets”.

    • Deanna Bell says:

      Hi Rick,
      That is what companies call it when added to processed meats; celery powder, celery juice, etc. Yes what’s extracted are the nitrites from celery. What should it be called? Our philosophy with food is to keep things as simple as we can by adding only ingredients that we need to add. If gluten or soy are not needed why add them? It just so happens this works for us because they happen to be priority allergens.

  15. Elaine says:

    Some people are allergic to celery it should not be put in meat neither should mustard meat should be meat

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