Maple Leaf Foods Tries a Little Make-Belief
    By Enrico Uva | February 3rd 2012 05:20 AM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    I majored in chemistry, worked briefly in the food industry and at Fisheries and Oceans. I then obtained a degree in education. Since then I have...

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    Probably inspired by the public misconception that if something is natural it has to be good, Maple Leaf Foods marketed an "all natural ham". Nitrite ions, preservatives that some consumers are worried about because of their alleged connection to colorectal cancer, are absent from the label. However, one listed ingredient, cultured celery extract, is actually a source of both nitrites and nitrates. CBC's Market Place had the ham analyzed and found it had the same concentration of NO2-(nitrite) as a regular ham product which listed sodium nitrite as an additive.

    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!


    The US is no different - actually, no place is any different. Organic marketing is more deceptive than anything pharmaceutical companies or Monsanto does. The US allows the same celery powder and dozens of other 'inorganic' ingredients, even gelatin.  And the seeds for growing organic food can be inorganic if the farmer has no organic seeds(ha ha - seriously!) not to mention the toxic pesticides allowed, provided they exist in 'nature'.
    I remember a cartoon from the New Scientist in the mid 1960s.  A neighbour is complaining to a member of a Hippy commune about the effluent from their “organic” power generator.

    “But man”, he replies, “our pollution is macrobiotic.”

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
     I couldn't locate the New Scientist cartoon, but I did find this one:

    For those of you who are returning to the blog, please read the new part after the bacon label photograph. Maple Leaf agreed to change its labels, but their safety officer then engaged in a different form of make-belief.