Sodium nitrate is a salt used extensively as a preservative
and colour fixative of processed meats such as sausage and bacon.
It is coded as E251 by European Union.
Nitrates by themselves are non-toxic but when added to meat
break down into nitrite. The nitrite then reacts with protein
to produce N-nitroso compounds which is carcinogenic in test
animals, evidence is inconclusive regarding their potential
to cause cancer (such as stomach cancer) in humans.
Health effects of nitrate include a bluish tinge on skin and
lips, weakness, rapid pulse, lack of consciousness, coma, and
death. Infants are much more sensitive to nitrates than adults.
Long-term exposure to lower levels of nitrates results in an
increase in the amount of urine, and starchy deposits and bleeding
of the spleen. Nitrate should not be used for infants below
Nitrates are also used as fertilisers, and leach into watercourses,
then subsequently into our drinking water.
Not recommended for consumption by children.