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.