The Government Has Food Makers Add Ascorbic Acid to Hot Dogs and Cold Cuts to Try and Block Cancer Causing Nitrosamines
Does Vitamin C Prevent Nitrosamine Formation What are Nitrites and Why are they in Hot dogs and What is the Connection to Cancer?
Confusing would be an apt description of the whole controversy swirling around hot dogs, cold cuts and franks and the nitrite and nitrate in them. An article in the NY Times about hot dogs, food safety and cancer says "Don’t count on the hot dog label (and those on franks and cold cuts either) to help much. Those pricey “natural” and “organic” hot dogs often contain just as much or more of the cancer-linked preservatives nitrate and nitrite as that old-fashioned..wiener". But what are nitrites and why are they in hot dogs and cold cuts and what is the connection to cancer?
Nitrates occur naturally in foods and sodium nitrite is also added sometimes as a color fixative and preservative to prevent growth of bacteria in meat and fish. In the digestive system, nitrates and nitrites can react to form nitrosamnies which are cancer causing chemicals.
“Nitrite is nitrite and consumers should be aware of what they’re eating,” said Marji McCullough, director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, which recommends that people reduce consumption of processed meats because of studies that link them to colon cancer".
Does Vitamin C Prevent Nitrosamine Formation?
Sodium ascorbate (vitamin C) and sodium erythorbate (isoascorbate) are added to try and prevent nitrosamine formation. According to the article, "Nitrosamines and Cancer", the benefit of vitamin C was discovered serendipitously. (This happens a lot in science.)
In the late 1960s researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center were studying nitrosamine formation from a drug called aminopyrine. Mysteriously, when they used a new batch of aminopyrine, no nitrosamines were formed. Further investigation revealed that the new batch of aminopyrine was formulated with ascorbic acid as a preservative, whereas the original batch that readily formed nitrosamines was not.
Why do they add sodium nitrite to hot dogs,cold cuts, etc.?
As a food additive,nitrite alters the color of preserved fish and meats and also prevents growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria which causes botulism.
Watch Video 5 Things to Know about Cold CutsThese processes lead to significant levels of nitrosamines in many foodstuffs, especially beer, fish, and fish byproducts, tobacco smoke and also in meat and cheese products preserved with nitrite pickling salt. The U.S. government established limits on the amount of nitrites used in meat products in order to decrease cancer risk in the population. There are also rules about adding Vitamin C, ascorbic acid or related compounds to meat, in order to inhibit nitrosamine formation.
What are Nitrates and Nitrites?
Sodium nitrite, with chemical formula NaNO2 is used as a color fixative and preservative in meats and fish. It is also slowly oxidized (chemical addition of oxygen) in the air to sodium nitrate, NaNO3. It is also used in manufacturing diazo dyes, nitroso compounds, and other organic compounds; in dyeing and printing textile fabrics and bleaching fibers; in photography; as a laboratory reagent and a corrosion inhibitor; in metal coatings for phosphatizing and detinning; and in the manufacture of rubber chemicals. Sodium nitrite also has been used in human and veterinary medicine as a vasodilator, a bronchodilator, an intestinal relaxant or a laxative, and an antidote for cyanide poisoning.