Nitrite is used by the food industry as a preservation agent for meat products. Nitrite has multiple functions, it prevents lipid oxidation, maintains microbial quality and preserves flavour and colour. One of the main concerns of consumers is the possible carcinogenic effect nitrite could have in some meat products after the curing process (as reported by the WHO recently: see FCRN coverage here).
However, there is no nitrite substitute which can provide all its functions at once. This paper explores the different alternatives to nitrite including: plant-based compounds, organic acids, bacteriocins and other microbial sources, and High Hydrostatic Pressure (HHP) treatment. It finds that currently none of these alternatives can provide all the functions of nitrite and that further studies will need to be conducted to assess the health and safety of the alternatives.
Nitrite has been used in different meat products mainly to maintain their microbial quality, flavor, and color and to prevent lipid oxidation. Since consumer demand for organic or natural meat products has increased due to the concerns of health risk of synthetic additives, the meat industry is currently focusing on the development of nitrite alternatives. This paper reviews the potential alternatives to replace nitrite salts that are used completely or partially in the manufacturing of meat products.
Alahakoon, A., U., Jayasena, D. D., Ramachandra S., Jo. C., (2015). Alternatives to nitrite in processed meat: Up to date. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 45 37- 49 doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2015.05.008
For related resources see the following research library categories: Processing and manufacturing, Other meat types, Consumer perceptions and preferences, Consumption & production trends, Dietary trends, Food consumption, Health concerns.