Why is our meat still being poisoned by nitrates?

Posted: 22 February 2021 | | No comments yet

Chris Elliott makes his case for the abolishment of nitrite use in the meat industry and suggests that there is strong evidence it’s linked to cancer.

Chris' Corner

It is not often I write a book review, in fact, I think this is only the second time I have undertaken such a challenge. The reason I decided to do this is because the book is on a topic that I became very interested in a few years ago. I tried to get to the root cause of the issues myself; where I failed, at least partially, I think this book (entitled ‘Who poisoned your bacon sandwich’ written by a French TV documentary producer Guillaume Coudray) has succeeded.

If Coudray is correct, then there has been a long running conspiracy to allow the meat industry to keep using nitrites to cure meat, despite it having been linked to multiple cases of colon cancer globally each year. Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest nitrites do anything to make meat safe.

I met Coudray in person a few years ago and during that meeting he shared his ‘conspiracy theory’ with me. This meeting was not that long after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decided to classify all processed meats as ‘Group 1 carcinogens’. I found it difficult to believe all that Coudray told me, and even more so that all processed meats cause cancer. However, my conclusions were, after some extensive researching, that the processes used to cure meats using nitrite chemicals were the major culprit. Since then, myself and some colleagues have published studies to support this theory.

In his book, Coudray details, in a rather convincing fashion, that a large scale cover-up involving vested interests in the meat industry and government agencies came into play. He describes very nicely how the ‘botulism card’ was played to defend the continued practise of adding nitrites to meat. The meat industry claimed that the chemicals weren’t being added to give that beautiful pink colour to meat or to give it a longer shelf life, but rather to protect us from the potentially deadly microbe Clostridium botulinum.

This was something I became aware of myself a few years ago and I really struggled to find any evidence to support this claim. In his book, Coudray pulls it apart; most revealing is the fact that for more than 27 years the world-famous Prosciutto di Parma ham has been produced without use of nitrites and not a single case of botulism has been reported.

Also of note is nitrite-free ‘Naked Bacon’, which has been on sale in the UK for several years and I’ve heard no reports of any associated illnesses. I was told that the UK meat industry was going to undertake some studies on the need for nitrites to prevent botulism, but to date, nothing has been published, that I’m aware of, to show that the use of nitrites has any food safety function whatsoever.

Over recent months I have been reading a number of articles about plans in France to ban the use of nitrites in the curing of meat. There is, of course, considerable resistance from sectors of the meat industry in France and elsewhere who really don’t want to see this precedence set, but nevertheless, change is coming. In the UK, I believe the same change will be driven from leaders within a number our retailers who understand that the use of nitrites isn’t needed to make meat safer, but rather has potentially deadly consequences.  

Within the next few months I will, alongside a group of collaborators, publish more of our research, which we believe provides further evidence to support the movement of nitrite-free meat.  

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