A group of parliamentarians has tabled a report calling for a gradual ban on nitrites in charcuterie. According to the League against cancer, nitrites are food additives potentially responsible for cancer. Zoom.
E249 (potassium nitrite), E250 (sodium nitrite), E251 (sodium nitrate) and E252 (potassium nitrate) are food additives that belong to the nitrite family. Present in around 12,000 products sold in France (and, in particular, in certain industrial hams), they are strongly contested: the NGO Foodwatch, the Yuka application and the League against cancer denounce their carcinogenic impact and demanded their ban last February.
A dangerousness underlined by 3 deputies who have just made a report in which they plead in favor of the progressive ban of nitrite salts in charcuterie. The report, cited by Le Monde, The report advocates in the first place to “prohibit the use of nitrate additives in sausages from 1is January 2023 for non-heat-treated meat products from 1is January 2025 for all charcuterie products “.
Nitrites, what are they?
About 76% of the charcuterie marketed in supermarkets contain nitrates or nitrites, the report says. These additives also help to limit the proliferation of harmful microorganisms, in particular Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria responsible for botulism. They are also added to the meat to preserve its pretty red color and give it flavor.
What happens to nitrites in the body? According to a report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which dates from 2017, nitrites pose 2 major risks to humans: on the one hand, by oxidizing hemoglobin, they reduce the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen in the body. On the other hand, nitrites can also contribute to the formation of carcinogenic chemicals – nitrosamines.
Nitrites are believed to be responsible for 4,000 new cancers each year
Nitrites, what are the risks? If EFSA experts estimate that “nitrosamines that form in the body from nitrites added in meat products (…) are of low concern to human health“, the League against cancer claims for its part that nitrites are responsible for 4000 new cases of cancer each year in France – colorectal cancers, in particular.
Nitrites: where are we? In November 2019, the 3 organizations Foodwatch, Yuka and the League against cancer launched a petition demanding the ban of E249, E250, E251 and E252: it now has more than 180,000 signatures. And mid-February 2020, 27 mayors from all political stripes will meet around the project “for canteens without nitrites“.
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