Nitrites and Charcuterie: How Much Pork Should You Eat Each Week and Can We Trust “0 Nitrites”?


Nitrites worry consumers. If they are necessary to preserve pork well, scientific studies confirm the health risks. Can we eat it? In what dose? And what is pork without preservatives worth? We are evaluating.

the Preservatives added to pork (cut into slices, in plastic trays) harmful to health. One Modern report And the Food Agency (ANSYS) concluded last July that it is Participation in Colorectal cancer risk. According to a study by Inserm It was unveiled on January 17thThey will also participate in the development Type 2 diabetes. Besides the International Agency for Research on Cancer In 2015 (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified nitrates and nitrites as Carcinogens for the man.

What are nitrites?

Nitrates and nitrites It is found naturally in soil and plants, but is also manufactured by the food industry to serve as a dietary supplement Conservatives. In the past, saltpeter (potassium nitrate) was used to preserve meat. Then we realized that nitrates, in the presence of the fermenters, were converted to nitrites, and that it was this that improved food preservation. Since the 1960s, nitrite has been used directly. It is used in the most common form of sodium nitrite or potassium nitrite. On the labels, they are mentioned by name or symbol: E250 Not even E249 For the second time. Their use is moderated and limited to meats and charcuterie: sausage, bacon bits, bacon, salami …

Why are they?

They inhibit the growth of Clostridium botulinum, Bacteria responsible for food poisoningIt is a rare disease that can be fatal. In France, only about ten cases are reported each year, mostly due to homemade preserves. says Ann Laurie Dinan, MD, MD and nutrition graduate.

Another benefit: By interacting with myoglobin (a protein), nitrites are fixed Pink color of the flesh. “When you roast pork in the oven and slice it, it’s grey,” he says. notes Lionel Rustin, who has been producing organic ham since the end of the 1970s. Don’t shock anyone. But in our imagination, good ham is pink. Otherwise, it sells poorly. “This requires a lot of explanation from consumers.”notes Lionel Rustin, who has successfully grown organic ham, with no nitrites…and pink!

Is nitrite harmful to health?

It is not the nitrites that are the problem, but their transformation into the carcinogenic nitrosamines. “This transformation takes place in the presence of proteins and heat, which are the conditions that exist during pork processing.”explains Anne-Laurie Denance. Thus, CIRC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) has classified deli meats as carcinogenic to humans, as are tobacco and asbestos.

Studies have, in fact, shown that there is a link between deli meat consumption and colorectal cancer (the third most common type of cancer in men and the second most common in women), and to a lesser extent breast cancer. But also their consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Can we continue to eat pork?

In its latest report, ANSES (National Agency for Health Security) recommends limiting its consumption 25 grams per day, or about half a ham steak, or 3 to 4 slices per week. Provided that you maintain a varied diet at the same time with at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Thus, if you eat deli meats once or twice a week while maintaining a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, no problem. Incorporating pork and raw vegetables is especially recommended because they provide vitamin C, which prevents the conversion of nitrites into nitrosamines, as well as fiber, which protects against colorectal cancer.

Are there nitrates in organic pork?

The Organic Label makes no guarantee in this aspect, any more than Red Label. The organic farming specification allows about fifty additives (compared to approximately 350 in conventional foods), including the popular E250. But the maximum allowable dose is only 80 mg/kg, as opposed to 150 mg/kg for traditional red. Additionally, some organic pork producers push the “healthy product” logic to the limit, by producing organic pork without nitrites. This is the case, for example, in the French Rostain and the Italian Delizie, both of which are sold in organic stores.

Can we do without it?

Yes, because it is possible to produce pork without nitrites. “This requires greater rigor at every stage of production: selection of raw materials, preparation, salting, cooking, slicing, preservation…”, Refers to Lionel Rustin. According to him, there are no microbial risks with the quality of the meat and hygiene rules are respected.

The Food Agency (Anses) recommends reducing the addition of nitrates and nitrites in deli low as reasonably possibleProvided that measures are taken to control the risk of contamination with bacteria that cause diseases such as salmonellosis, listeriosis or food poisoning.

According to ANSES, reducing nitrites in cooked pork for example could mean a shorter expiration date.

The government established a An action plan to reduce the addition of nitro additives in food products.

Can we trust “nitrite-free” pork?

Manufacturers are increasingly marketing “nitrite-free” sealed pork. This has been the case for Fleury Michon and Herta since 2016.

“We use Nitrate-rich vegetable broth (carrots, celery, chard, etc.) and fermenters that naturally convert nitrates into nitrates,” This was explained in 2017 to Top Santé by David Garbous, director of strategic marketing for the Fleury Michon brand.

He didn’t even use Herta No nitrites, even of vegetable origin. “We found an interesting ingredient to fight Clostridium botulinum, developed a new recipe and adapted the manufacturing process,” For his part, explained Yves Bonneville, Director of Research and Development of Herta. In the list of ingredients: pork, spices, aromatics, salt and sugar. That’s it.

In other words, the Herta manufacturer uses neither nitrite salts nor nitrate-rich plants in their broth which, under the influence of the added yeast, could be converted into nitrites and form a preservative. In 2017, the audition by UFC Que Choisir proved satisfactory: “For the reference we provided to an independent laboratory, all nitrate and nitrite analyzes reveal levels below the analytical detection thresholds. A successful bet for Herta, this pig is consistent with the claims it makes.”

In 2020, according to another test conducted by the magazine, 60 million consumers, All pork has been tested Below regulatory limits, set at 150 mg of nitrite per kilogram of meat.

However, it is vegetable broths that are often used as substitutes for sodium or potassium nitrite, in the industrial fields labeled “nitrite-free”. But this alternative is not one, according to Laurent Guillier, scientific project manager at ANSES who will be interviewed by 60 million consumers in 2022: “The plants in vegetable broth contain nitrates, a percentage of which is converted into nitrates. The problem is that we can’t say how much of this part the body absorbs.”

Please note that there is no substitute for dry sausages and sausages yet.The problem with sausage is that the meat is minced, so if there are bacteria on the outside, they end up inside the product. In addition, the acidification and fermentation processes cause the temperature of the sausage to rise, which spreads the contaminants further.” Laurent Gillier explains. Currently, there is no real alternative in this sector to reduce nitrites.


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