Natural Curing Compounds

In April of 2006, the USDA verbally announced that new label submissions would require changes to the “No Nitrate or Nitrite Added” statement on uncured products. The change in labeling was in response to the realization that many products labeled “uncured” actually contained naturally occurring nitrites that can be present in vegetable juices and sea salt. The changes that were made require new labels to contain the disclaimer “No Nitrates or Nitrites added except for naturally occurring nitrites found in” one of the ingredients present in the ingredient statement. These ingredients include celery juice powder, beet juice powder, carrot juice concentrate, sea salt, or any ingredient determined to contain nitrates or nitrites by USDA. Furthermore, the statement “No Preservatives” cannot be used (Bacus, 2006).

Naturally occurring nitrates are very common in the environment and can be found in ingredients such as sea salt and vegetable sources. It is well known that vegetables are a source of relatively high nitrate concentrations. The National Academy of Sciences (1981)reported that vegetables contain nitrates in concentrations as high as 1500-2800 ppm in celery, lettuce, and beets. Vegetable juices and powders are commercially available and are being utilized to produce uncured, no nitrate/nitrite-added meat products. An analysis of commercially available vegetable juices reported that carrot, celery, beet, and spinach juice contained 171 ppm, 2114 ppm, 2273 ppm, and 3227 ppm of nitrate respectively (Sebranek & Bacus, 2007). Vegetable powders are also available which can provide nitrate in concentrated form. Sindelar et al. (2007b) reported nitrate concentration of 27,462 ppm in commercially prepared celery juice powder. Celery powder is highly compatible with cured meats as it has relatively low vegetable pigment and flavor that does not cause discolorations or off flavors when used at lower levels.

Recently, pre-converted vegetable juice powders have become commercially available for the production of uncured meat and poultry products. In these pre-converted powders the nitrate is reduced with microorganisms before adding it to the meat block. The pre-converted powders can be added directly to ground or chopped products, or can be mixed in a brine and injected or tumbled into different meat cuts. These powders can be purchased already containing nitrite at concentrations as high as 10,000 – 15,000 parts per million. As a result, no starter culture or incubation step is required for the production of no-nitrate-or-nitrite-added meat products. There is concern about the use of pre-formed nitrite in vegetable juice powders because nitrite alone is a restricted ingredient. Nevertheless, because the nitrite is derived from naturally occurring nitrates, the product is still required to be labeled as uncured with the statement of no nitrates or nitrites added.


Recent consumer interest for healthier perceived foods has prompted consumer demands for uncured, no-nitrate-or-nitrite-added meat and poultry products. Curing processes that produce uncured meat products utilize natural ingredients high in nitrate such as vegetable products, and a nitrate-reducing starter culture to produce nitrite from nitrate.

This product was added to our catalog on Saturday 20 October, 2012.

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