So-Called "Nitrite-Free" Bacon Is Full of It

Bacon sizzling in a frying pan.

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Bacon is a summer holiday treat for our family, and I have been paying a significant premium to purchase nitrite-free bacon, as studies going as far back as the seventies have linked nitrites to a number of different kinds of cancer. So I was shocked to read Sara's post on natural nitrites in hot dogs and had a close look at the bacon package. And sure enough, it has a big "No nitrites added" label that drew me in, an asterisk noting *except for those naturally occurring in the ingredients, which include cultured celery extract, , which, as Sara noted, are nitrites.

I think it is a bit disingenuous for Schneiders to be saying that no nitrites are added, when cultured celery extract is not exactly standard in bacon; just because it is naturally occurring doesn't make it any better. GOOD explained how it works last year:

To replace the pure chemical nitrites of old, many organic meat producers have been substituting celery juice or a powdered extract. Celery is one of many leafy green vegetables with naturally occurring nitrates--about 1,103 parts per million in the fresh plant--so these labeling claims (while technically correct) can seem misleading. It's just another instance of the organic food industry accidentally replicating what it set out to oppose. Earlier this year, Cook's Illustrated tested different types of bacon and found that two brands of "nitrate-free" bacon had significantly more nitrites than their conventional counterpart. "If you want to avoid these compounds," they wrote, "you'll have to avoid bacon--and any other processed meats containing celery juice--altogether."

As GOOD notes, a lot of people, including me, were willing to pay a premium to do without nitrites, and a lot of people have been wasting their money. Sigh.