Naturally sourced Nitrate and Nitrite meat preservatives targeted in new US food labelling regulations

US – The United States Department of Agriculture through its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is planning draft regulations prohibiting the use of statements such as “No Nitrate or Nitrite Added” and on products processed using any source of nitrates or nitrites.

Currently, the governmental regulatory agency allows companies to make these claims when using natural sources of nitrates such as celery salt.

However, this will change if FSIS goes ahead with the proposed plans which are expected to start taking effect as from May 2021.

Additionally, the FSIS plans to designate non-synthetic sources of nitrates or nitrites as curing agents.

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The decision comes at a time when food companies are making efforts to clean up their food labels, and ‘nitrates’ is one of the many terms they are looking to erase.

Nitrate, although being a very important meat preservative, has lost favour among consumers due to the health risks associated with it.

Studies have found the substance is sometimes converted by the body into carcinogens that may spur tumor growth. In fact, in its petition, the Center for Science in the Public Interest noted nitrates have been linked to cancer.

To address the concern by consumers food manufacturers have relied on natural sources of nitrates to extend shelf-life in a way that does alienate consumers that reject unfamiliar or artificial ingredients.

Even nitrates from natural sources are also falling out of favour with consumer groups arguing that those compounds despite being from natural sources are chemically identical to synthetic ones.

Getting a viable alternative replicating the preservation properties of nitrates without compromising on the taste, appearance and texture of a product has however proven difficult.

This has paved the way for the use of natural sources of nitrates like celery juice, which is not chemically different from synthetic forms.

In fact, the BBC noted the majority of nitrates people consume come from vegetable sources.

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However, some manufacturers have already begun looking for other options outside of natural nitrates.

Several years ago, Tyson removed all added nitrites and nitrates from its Ball Park brand hot dogs, replacing the chemicals with natural alternatives.

Kraft Heinz, on the other hand, renovated its entire portfolio of hot dogs to ensure it didn’t have added nitrates or nitrites, artificial preservatives or by-products.

If this USDA proposal goes into effect, the number of companies that rely on natural alternatives to preserve their products will likely jump dramatically.

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