WHAT ARE NITRATES AND NITRITES?
They are preservatives that contribute to food safety but can also be toxic if ingested in too high of quantities. This ambivalence worthy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde causes confusion among consumers with some praising these substances and others demonizing them.
Nitrates and nitrites should not be banned at all costs. According to recent studies, once our bodies have broken down nitrates into the simpler compound of nitric oxide, this byproduct can have many positive health benefits such as the prevention of infection and vascular disease, reinforcing our stomach lining, and improving athletic performance. This would explain why our bodies naturally produce these substances in small quantities. Banning them would therefore be excessive and unreasonable.
The Acceptable Daily Intake (established by scientific authorities based on available toxicological data representing the maximum amount of a substance that a person, based on weight, can consume daily — even over the course of an entire lifetime — with no identifiable risks given the most up-to-date information) in relation to 1kg of human mass is 3.7mg of nitrates and 0.07mg of nitrites. Following this calculation, a person weighing 70kg should not consume more than 259mg of nitrates (3.7mg x 70kg) and 4.9mg of nitrites a day (0.07mg x 70kg).
Compared to the past, people today are consuming more nitrates and nitrites. The increased consumption of these substances can in part be attributed to their use in industrial agriculture and thus their greater presence in plant products and especially in vegetables (where nitrate levels may even have doubled) due to the use of fertilizers with synthetic nitrates. Larger quantities of nitrites and nitrates are also being used in preservatives more so than in the past. We therefore believe that our organic choice not to use these substances not only protects the wellbeing of humans, animals, and the environment, but also guarantees quality products.
LEGISLATION REGARDING FOOD PRESERVATIVES
The development of a statutory framework for the production of organic cured and pre-cooked meat products began in 1996, however, at that point their legal referent was still the law regulating organic crop cultivation (which in fact banned the use of preservatives). In Europe, the official legislation from 2002 regulating the production of organic products allowed for the use of preservatives. It was not until late 2007 that a new law was introduced for organic foods that mandated a reduction of preservatives in cooked products (such as hams and mortadella). This statute requires a much more restricted use of nitrites in organic foods than in conventional products.