What Is Sodium Nitrate In Processed Meats & Is It Harmful? & 5 Secrets Your Supermarket Doesn’t Want You to Know

By Thom Underwood - September 28, 2015


Sodium nitrate (NaNO3) and its close relative sodium nitrite (NaNO2) are preservatives that you find in lots of processed meats. Stuff like salami, hot dogs, pepperoni, bologna, ham, bacon and SPAM all normally contain sodium nitrate as one of the ingredients. Fresh meats generally do not contain any added chemicals, so the question is, “Why is sodium nitrate added to all of these processed meats?”

There are two reasons for adding these chemicals to processed meats:

  • They preserve the color of the meat (meaning that it looks pink like SPAM rather than gray like cooked hamburger). You have probably noticed that nearly all meats that contain sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite remain pink or red even though they are cooked during processing.
  • These chemicals inhibit botulism to some degree.
  • Botulism – Food poisoning caused by bacterium (botuinum) growing on improperly sterilized canned meats and other preserved foods.
  •  Sodium nitrate reacts with stomach acid and other chemicals in the stomach to produce nitrosamines, which have been shown to cause cancer in animals when consumed in large quantities.

Think you’re a grocery shopping pro? Even if you know how to steer clear of hidden fat and salt traps, you may be falling prey to other pitfalls that are even more dangerous to your health. Dr. Oz teamed up with food safety inspector Roy Costa and registered dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth to reveal five steps you should take to protect yourself from the risky secrets your supermarket is hiding.

 1. Look for the cold line

What do you do when you buy eggs? Do you take the carton from the top, open it and check for cracked eggs inside? Not good enough, says Costa. His advice: Buy eggs that are stacked under the cold line. This colored line is painted on the wall of the dairy section cooler. Retailers aren’t supposed to stack eggs above this line, where the temperature isn’t sufficiently cold. According to Dr. Oz, eggs stored there can sweat, facilitating the growth of bacteria. Instead of grabbing the top carton, look for that cold line and grab from underneath it.

 2. Never buy meat to freeze

Smart shoppers buy meat or chicken on sale and freeze what they don’t plan to use right away. Or do they? According to Costa, meat that’s shipped to the supermarket is already frozen. It’s then thawed before it’s put on display. When you take that meat home, you have no idea how long it’s been in the display case. That means it could harbor bacteria. The moral of the story: Cook the meat you buy within a day.

 3. Beware the use-by date

The manufacturer stamps that “use-by” date on the package, right? Not always.  According to Costa, retailers are responsible for stamping the date on foods that they process and package. That means they can change the date as many times as they want until the product sells. Costa says that retailers will sometimes continue selling the product until it looks green and moldy. Next time you buy food, look at the date, but also make sure the food looks fresh before you add it to your cart.

 4. Avoid the manager’s special

Items with these stickers might as well be stamped “old food.” Francis Largeman-Roth says to run—not walk—away from them. They are the items the supermarket is trying to get rid of, which means it’s probably been on the shelf for a while and may not be safe to eat.

 5. Shop on Wednesdays

Wednesdays are the days many supermarket stock up. If not ask your local supermarket what days do they stock up to get fresh produce right off the food crates.

The #1 most important document for gut health repair

The Gut Health Cheat Sheet

2 pages covering my best strategies and hacks on improving your gut health. If you want better health, energy and weight loss. This cheat sheet is for you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© Thom Underwood Wellness 2022+. All rights reserved.