This is a guest article by Mannie Barling and Ashley F. Brooks.

Clean Labels include many other chemical ingredients besides MSG that go largely unnoticed. Since the food industry does not want you to know about Clean Labels, it makes any information a trade secret and exercises all of its power to keep the information confidential. This is information on one such ingredient that could not be suppressed by the industry.

One of the most dangerous food additives hidden in processed foods is sodium nitrite, which is a byproduct of sodium nitrate. Any amount of sodium nitrate added to meat breaks down into a poisonous form of nitrite. Although the words are spelled similarly (with only a change in letters), the differences between the two chemicals becomes the cause of cancer.

Nitrite occurs as part of the curing process during the manufacture of food and, if it doesn’t, it certainly occurs during your body’s digestion of sodium nitrate. One way or another nitrate decomposition results in nitrite residues in your body. Once nitrate breaks down into nitrite, it reacts with the ingested meat to produce compounds known to cause heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Sodium nitrate/nitrite contains up to 14% of MSG. It is also used as an ingredient in fertilizers, glass and enamels as well as in pyrotechnics, smoke bombs and as a solid-fuel rocket propellant.

In the food industry, sodium nitrate is used primarily to make non-organic gray-looking meat look fleshy red. It is added to non-organic bacon, sausages, hot dogs, pepperoni, deli meats and almost all other non-organic processed and/or cured meats. Any time the word “cured” appears on a label it means that there is sodium nitrate/nitrite in the product.

The highest amounts of sodium nitrate are to be found in those packaged meats used for children’s lunches, packaged meats sold in the deli section of your market and meats offered in fast food sandwich stores. With so many other addictive chemicals included, this is not a chemical cocktail that society should offer to children.

Nitrates/nitrites have been added to meat largely for their preservative qualities. When applied to the exterior of packaged meat cuts, the meat stays red for a long period of time. Nitrites also make meat turn reddish when cooked. The long curing of meat affects its flavor. Once you identify the taste, you will be able to identify it forever.

For example, cooked corned beef gets its classic reddish color from the sodium nitrite in the brine. Without it, corned beef comes out gray and many argue tasteless. Part of the distinctive flavor of corned beef comes from the length of time it is cured in nitrites. Most brine recipes require 2 cups of kosher salt and 4 teaspoons sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrate is also necessary when dry curing meats like pepperoni and dry salami, which are not cooked or refrigerated. This explains why so many Crohn’s, IBD and IBS sufferers cannot eat cured bacon or salami without becoming ill.

Sodium nitrite preparations are often called by the generic name “pink salt” because they are colored pink to avoid confusion with regular salt. The pink color is used because nitrite can be fatally toxic, if ingested in an amount equivalent to 4.6 grams (.16 or 1/6 of an ounce).

A brief chemistry lesson in how sodium nitrate converts to nitrites is in order. The nitrate (NO3) in sodium nitrate is converted to nitrite (NO2) by using bacteria as a catalyst, which then reacts to form nitric oxide (NO). Any bacteria in your stomach will convert nitrate into nitrite.

The nitrous oxide then bonds to the myoglobin in the meat turns the meat pink and prevents oxidation. Thus keeping the packaged meat looking red or pink for months whether the meat is on the verge of spoiling or has already spoiled.

It hides the time between slaughter and the time it takes to get the meat packaged and on the shelf. As a result, you can no longer tell whether meat is fresh solely by its color. Certainly a deceptive practice designed to fool shoppers into buying older meat.

Nitric oxide is also present when smoking meats. It gives that pink looking ring around the outside of smoked meats. You will find sodium nitrate on the “Ingredients Label” of most, if not all, packaged meats. But you will find no mention of nitrites because to do so is to open a can of worms, including the likelihood that the buyer will associate nitrites with statistics on heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Evidence shows that sodium nitrate has caused a 67% increase in pancreatic cancer, a 74% higher risk of leukemia and a 40% higher risk of diabetes. The American public remains largely in ignorance because there are no disclosures or warnings on food labels.

The term “processed meat” refers to any meat that is preserved by smoking, curing, salting or any process that contains additional chemical preservatives. One hundred percent of all processed meats sold in markets and delis across the U.S. come from factory farms  where the livestock are fed Monsanto’s genetically modified Bt corn and soy. It is virtually impossible to avoid these products that so often constitute children’s school lunches, convenience store snacks and often full meals for the family.

Conventional wisdom has dictated that fat from red meat is a risk factor for heart disease, but a new analysis from Harvard researchers finds that it is the eating of processed meat – not unprocessed red meat – that increases the risk for heart disease and even diabetes.

A 2010 study published in the journal Circulation reveals that eating processed meat products with high levels of sodium nitrate significantly raises the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The report analyzed twenty different studies involving more than 1.2 million people from ten countries.

The study found that eating just two ounces of processed meat each day resulted in a 42% increase in the risk of heart disease and a19% increase in the risk of diabetes. That equates to one bite of a hot dog at a sporting event or two bites out of a processed meat sandwich in a deli, roach coach or convenience store.

The study also found that eating non-processed meats was not linked to the increased risk of disease. The study concluded that sodium nitrate and non-organic processed salt in the processed meats combined to cause the increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Processed meats contain, on average, four times the amounts of sodium and twice the amounts of nitrate preservatives as unprocessed meats.

Renata Micha, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health who analyzed the data from the studies, said that “To lower [the] risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should avoid eating too much processed meats — for example, hot dogs, bacon, sausage or processed deli meats. Based on our findings, eating up to one serving per week would be associated with relatively small risk.”

Micha added that, “A study of over 500,000 people found that people who ate the most processed meats had a higher risk of mortality, cancer and cardiovascular disease than those who ate lesser amounts of these foods.”

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at UCLA, says that “various studies have suggested that higher levels of consumption of red and processed meat is associated with higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and premature death.” Studies conducted by the World Cancer Research Fund confirm that sodium nitrate/nitrite in processed meat increases the risk of colon cancer.

The studies also found that the high consumption of processed meats led to elevated risks for colorectal, lung, esophageal and liver cancers, along with borderline higher risks for advanced prostate and bladder cancer. Much of the blame has been placed on the effects of sodium nitrite.

In the 1970s, the USDA actually tried to ban sodium nitrite from food, but was overruled by the political might of the meat industry which relies upon sodium nitrate to make packaged meat look visually more appealing. According to meat packers, it is necessary to treat meats with sodium nitrate/nitrite to keep them looking fresh until sold. The industry is afraid that people will not buy meat if it looks old or gray in color.

Meat industry research claims that appearance is the most important issue at the point of sale. If the meat doesn’t look good, it won’t sell. While this may be true, educating the general public about the health dangers of preservatives and color enhancers would be a safer choice. This is another example of the political might of Big Food triumphing over the health and safety of the American people.

It is also an example of how Clean Labels mask carcinogenic food ingredients instead of disclosing them. Americans would not eat as much smoked and cured meat if they knew it would increase their exposure to heart disease, diabetes and cancer. There should be sodium nitrate/nitrite warnings on all packaged food labels, especially processed meats. And, its use should be banned from all meats sold in butcher section of every market and butcher shop.

Consumers want that fresh looking red meat in the meat section to be fresh, not an older piece of meat “painted” red with sodium nitrate/nitrite. At the price that meat is being sold for today, we don’t believe that it is too much to ask the food industry to package our meats without carcinogenic chemicals.

Mannie Barling and Ashley F. Brooks, R.N., are the authors of award winning books – Arthritis, Inflammation, Gout, Crohn’s, IBD and IBS – How to Eliminate Pain and Extend your Life (Books and Authors 2010 Best Books in the Health, Diet & Reference Categories) and Mannie’s Diet and Enzyme Formula – A Change of Lifestyle Diet Designed for Everyone (Blogger News Net 2010 Best Health And Nutrition Book Award winner) available at HowToEliminatePain.com, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other booksellers around the world.

It’s Not Your Fault – Weight Gain, Obesity and Food Addiction is now available at HowtoEliminatePain.com, Amazon and booksellers everywhere. The authors latest book, The Food Revolution Papers – A Primer on What’s in Your Food, is due in bookstores on October 1, 2011.

Mannie Barling and Ashley F. Brooks are the co-hosts of Surviving the 21st Century with Simon Barrett on Blogger News Network on Saturdays at 10:00 A.M. PST/1:00 PM EST found at http://www.bloggernews.net or Blog Talk Radio.

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