Facts About Nitrates and Nitrites Found in Processed Foods
Unless you eat organic foods exclusively, you're likely to have purchased packaged, processed foods and meats. Most of these foods contain added preservatives and chemicals; and many harbor bacterial toxins that harm the body. Processed meats in particular are subject to numerous additives, flavor enhancers and preservatives to prevent the growth of molds and other toxins contributing to spoilage.
Processed Meat, Fresh meat contains one ingredient: meat. Processed meats contain numerous ingredients, and not all of them are meat. Many ingredients and additives in processed meats are included to prolong shelf life and enhance flavors. These products often include sodium nitrite, a color fixer that makes processed meats look fresher and more appetizing and has been linked to cancer. Processed meats include sausage, deli meats, jerky, bacon, pepperoni, hot dogs, lunch meats and meats used in canned foods, on pizzas and in packaged products.
Processed meats are especially prone to harboring salmonella bacteria. Eating processed meat contaminated with salmonella can produce illness in the form of severe diarrhea, chills, fever and vomiting -- and death in sensitive individuals -- depending the amount consumed. The main form of transmission is when the bacteria are spread to foods by hands that have been contaminated. It's important to wash hands thoroughly before and after handling foods and to sterilize cooking surfaces and implements. Onset of symptoms is generally seen 12 to 36 hours after consuming meats contaminated with salmonella bacteria.
Campylobacter jejuni, or C. jejuni, is another bacterial toxin found especially in chickens as well as in raw ground meat and raw shellfish. Although the bacteria are easily destroyed through some processing and the application of heat, it can still be passed to humans in processed meats through cross-contamination. Symptoms of infection appear several days after ingestion of foods and can last a week or longer, depending on their severity. Complications such as arthritic pains, meningitis, urinary tract infections, colitis and Guillain-Barre syndrome may occur.
Staphylococcus bacteria are commonly found in the nose, throat and on the skin in the form of boils, infected sores and wounds, or acne. Staphylococcus is very common and in some cases can be highly destructive to human tissue. The bacteria produce a toxin that forms on warm foods and foods left in open air. The bacteria are resistant to heat. Keeping foods covered, refrigerated and frozen are the primary methods of preventing the growth of staphylococcus. Processed meats are prone to developing staphylococcus toxins due to their being frequently handled and left out in open air. Initial symptoms of staphylococci contamination include cramping, vomiting, diarrhea and extreme exhaustion. Other symptoms that may appear later are boils or other infected skin lesions.
Clostridium perfringens belongs in the same genus as is the botulism bacteria. Although C. perfringens causes symptoms less severe than botulism, it remains a noxious toxin found in processed meats. Foods that have not been properly cooled or covered are prone. Symptoms may appear in the form of painful cramping and diarrhea and disappear in several days.
Nitrates and Nitrites
Potassium nitrate and sodium nitrite are used as preservatives in processed meats and are known additives that may cause headaches, vomiting, breathing problems and other allergic responses. According to the American Meat Institute, these curing agents are toxic to humans. Adding too much of either chemical to processed meats can cause illness and death. Additionally, the use of nitrates and nitrites in processed meats has been linked to cancer.