This story which broke out today to coincide with the airing of the Market Place episode reveals nothing new. In October of 2011, the Globe and Mail reported
The federal government is considering new restrictions that may prevent food manufacturers from labelling processed meat products as “natural” if they contain cultured celery extract, a preserving agent that is a source of potentially unhealthy nitrates and nitrites.
Not to single out Maple Foods, Schneider, another processed food company, used the same trick with bacon, and actually was even more misleading by printing on the label "no nitrites added".
After I wrote the bulk of this blog, it came to my attention that, in response to Market Place's analyses, Maple Leaf Foods this week decided to modify their labels and include the fact that the products contain nitrite.
But what I find a little disturbing is the comment from Randy Huffman, chief product safety officer with Maple Leaf Foods.
"Nitrite is very misunderstood. Nitrite is actually part of a healthy, balanced diet, it's in a variety of foods that we eat every day,"
Although it is true that the nitrite nitrosamine connection in humans is not that clear-cut and that adding ascorbic acid and erythorbate to meat products helps prevent nitrosamine formation, I have never seen anything suggesting that these ions, although part of the nitrogen cycle, are part of a healthy diet.
This study in fact reveals that nitrite levels in vegetables range from 0.2 to 6.1 ppm ( fresh and frozen vegetables) and are even lower in canned products. In contrast, cured meats and hot dogs contain at least 50 to 100 ppm. Thanks for distorting the truth again, Mr. Huffman!