Sodium Nitrite (E250) – Used for curing(preserving) meat and fish products
Sodium Nitrite (NaNO2) is a food additive that gives cured meats, such as ham, bacon, hot dogs, frankfurters, smoked fish and corned beef, their characteristic red colour and flavour, it inhibits the growth of bacterial spores that cause botulism, a deadly food borne illness, and retards development of rancidity and off-odours. It is coded as E250 by the European Union.
Health effects are acute methemoglobinemia (haemoglobin loses its ability to carry oxygen). Early symptoms include irritability, lack of energy, headache, dizziness, vomiting, diaorrhea, laboured breathing and a blue-gray or pale purple colouration to areas around the eyes, mouth, lips, hands and feet (blue baby syndrome).
In severe untreated cases, brain damage and eventually death can result from suffocation due to lack of oxygen. Pregnant women and infants below 3 months should stay away from nitrites. Individuals with digestive difficulties due to reduced stomach acidity are also at higher risk.
Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives has established an ADI of 0-0.06mg/kg bw. U.S. Department of Agriculture has the specifications that sodium nitrite content should not exceed 200ppm in finished products. Use of Sodium nitrite is banned in Norway, Sweden, Canada, Germany.