...because we all have our motley moments!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sodium Nitrites... what is that?

Now, let me start of by saying that I am absolutely NO AUTHORITY on health related issues. I'm a Mommy by profession and I am constantly learning as each day passes.

Have you ever wondered about this thing called sodium nitrate that is put in cold cuts, hot dogs and other food products? What in the world is it? Well, I decided to google it. When I did, all sorts of stuff came up and I tried to sift through it and then took a little break. My brain started to hurt.

The general gist of it is that it is a preservative and should be avoided if possible.

One of the sites I found (supermarket guru) says:

Sodium Nitrite helps prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism in humans and is also used alone or in conjunction with sodium nitrate as a color fixative in cured meat and poultry products (bologna, hot dogs, bacon).

During the cooking process, nitrites combine with amines naturally present in meat to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. It is also suspected that nitrites can combine with amines in the human stomach to form N-nitroso compounds.

These compounds are known carcinogens and have been associated with cancer of the oral cavity, urinary bladder, esophagus, stomach and brain.

Research in Sweden found that Swedes who ate on average 3 ounces of processed meat each day had a 15 percent greater chance of developing stomach cancer than those who consumed 2 ounces or less.

The Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and the University of Southern California reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2005;97:1458-65) that they studied 190,000 people, ages 45 to 75, for seven years. Those who ate the most processed meat (bacon, ham, cold cuts) had a 68% higher risk of pancreatic cancer than those who ate the least. "Most" was defined as at least 0.6 ounce processed meat, 1 ounce beef or 0.3 ounce pork per 1,000 calories consumed.

Dietitians suggest that you can help reduce the possible cancer-causing effects of sodium nitrite by consuming protective antioxidants before meals, such as vitamin C and vitamin E. But, remember, no vitamin offers 100% protection.

Now this is different from the Listeria concerns that we have regarding cold cuts and hot dogs.

Listeriosis is an infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, with an estimated 2,500 persons in the US becoming seriously ill and 500 of these resulting in death each year.

The disease affects primarily pregnant women (who are 20 times more likely to become infected and develop a severe illness), newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.

The symptoms include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur.

Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn. Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill.

Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking; however, in certain ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats, contamination may occur after cooking but before packaging.

OK. Got that? My brain is really hurting now.

I guess if you really want to be careful what you should do is buy sodium nitrate free cold cuts and heat them in the microwave to kill any Listeria that might be lurking in there. Mmmmmmmm.

Just be a vegetarian.

In case you are wondering what Boar's Head meats don't have sodium nitrites, I've attached the list for you at the top. You can also call them at their Nutrition Line at 800-352-6277 and they can send you info. This is a link that Boars Head has regarding nitrites http://www.boarshead.com/nitrites.php.


Karly said...

Great. My kids are totally going to get cancer or Listeria. They love hot dogs, lunch meat, and bacon. I buy Boars Head, but the flavors I like are not on the list, of course.

Sometimes I feel like everything we eat has been contaminated in some way or another. Yikes!

Maria said...

Sorry. I know this is not a popular subject, but it's something that I have always wondered about.

Who knows, maybe we'll hear a report tomorrow that lunch meat and hot dogs are somehow really healthy for you and that we should have at least 4 servings of nitrates per day!

We can't get crazy about it, but if you have a choice...

Maria said...

Hey, I just read some of the Boars Head website info and they say that nitrates are not so bad in cold cuts and even beneficial.

Who knows?

It just depends on who you ask.

I think moderation is the key to it all.

Donna said...

I agree. I'd say moderation is definitely the key. We actually do a lot of peanut butter sandwiches here, and even that has presented a health scare recently. So we alternate between fluffernutters and cheese sandwiches and hope for untainted peanut butter.

We indulge in very little lunchmeat (pretty much limited to the Publix subs...yum!) and very occassional hotdogs. We love Nathan's and Hebrew National brand hotdogs, but I'm not sure where they fall on the nitrate scale. I have to be careful of msg for my family. Several of us are very sensitive to msg (monosodium glutamate) and they use a lot of it in processed foods (soups, mixes, dressings, flavored potato chips, smoked sausage, flavored instant rice, and even frozen fish products like fishsticks and breaded fillets). I check pretty much every label before I buy. Now it looks like I need to check our hotdogs for nitrates!

Thanks for the interesting info, Maria!

Maria said...

I'm with ya on the MSG. I get headaches from it. Doritos are the absolute worst for me, but they are sooo yummy!

They probably have nitrates too!


hgrenier said...

my oldest LOVES hotdogs, so i switched him to all beef, natural hotdogs (eric-heather.blogspot.com - posted under nutrition, i have a very blurry picture of the package i buy at publix ;)

Jen said...

Thanks for all the info regarding the nitrites in Boars Head. I am a mom of a 2 1/2 and 3 month old. I look forward to reading more on the blog.

Fairfield, CT