Nitrites added to processed meats could cause cancer

Posted: 3 January 2019 | | 2 comments

Industry experts and activists have warned of the negative health effects of nitrites in processed meat, indicating that more could be done to raise public awareness.


Leading scientists and politicians have called for processing chemicals that cause cancer to be removed from processed meats.

Among the campaigners involved are Professor Chris Elliott, Chair, Institute for Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast and NHS Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Aseem Malhotra.

The statement mentioned how, ‘there is a consensus of scientific opinion that nitrites in processed meats result in the production of carcinogenic nitrosamines – and therefore increase cancer risk for those who regularly consume traditional bacon and ham.

‘For these reasons, we are concerned that not enough is being done to raise awareness of nitrites in our processed meat and their health risks, in stark contrast to warnings regularly issued regarding sugar and fatty foods. 

‘A united and active front is needed from policy-makers, the food industry and the cancer-care community to work together to raise awareness of their risks and encourage the much wider use of nitrite-free alternatives that are safer and can reduce the number of cancer cases in the UK.’

Others supporting the statement are Dr Chris Gill, Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, University of Ulster, MP Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in England, MP Sir David Amess, Chair of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Food and Health (Conservative), and MP Kerry McCarthy, Former Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Labour).

MP Mary Creagh, Chair of the Environment Audit Committee, Former Shadow Environment Secretary (Labour), Baroness Walmsley, Vice Chair, UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (Liberal Democrat), MEP John Procter Environment, Public Health & Food Safety committee, European Parliament (Conservative) and Wendy McCulla, Chair of the Cancer Fund for Children also backed the statement.

The statement mentioned then when nitrites are consumed they produce nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens. The activists commented that not enough is being done to raise awareness of nitrites in processed meats, and so those who consume processed meats in large quantities may have an increased risk of cancer.

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2 responses to “Nitrites added to processed meats could cause cancer”

  1. DR. Konrad OTTO says:

    Having read the article above ,I wonder what about the nitrate in vegatables, The nitrate of the vegetables is transformed to nitrit during the digestion and able to react with amines to nitrosamines. I my former company we have developed a solution to reduce the nitrate in vegetable juices with microorganisms in the early 90th . What about red beet shoots on the market, disigned for athlets?
    Best regards

  2. Trygve Eklund says:

    I fail to notice any reference to the fact that vegetables provide the most substantial source of nitrates in our food, far exceeding nitrite from meat. Nitrate is transformed into nitrite in our body (commence mouth and gastrointestinal flora).

    Neither is the possible defense mechanism of acidifies nitrate mentioned ( A typical paper: “Antimicrobial effect of acidified nitrite on gut pathogens: importance of dietary nitrate in host defense.”

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