We know that processed meats are really not good for us, but sometimes we just have to indulge in them. Who doesn’t sometimes love some bacon, right? But you should know that deli meats can have misleading nitrates labels. Some of them say that they have ‘no nitrates added’, but that’s misleading, according to a new report.
When you see those particular nitrates labels, remember that apparently those deli meats might actually contain similar levels of nitrates as meats that do not have those labels. Consumer Reports tested 31 deli meat products including roast beef, salami, turkey and ham, some of them name brands, while others store brands. The “labels could make people think these meats are healthier,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports, quoted by NPR. “But our tests show they are not,” she added.
“Deli meats carrying these labels pose the same health risks as traditionally cured meats because the nitrate and nitrite levels are essentially the same,” Vallaeys said.
Nitrates labels depending on federal rules
The reason for the misleading labels is related to the federal labeling rules for processed meats. The manufacturers might use natural curing agents like celery powder instead of synthetic sodium nitrite. In that case, they can be required to use descriptors as “uncured” or “no nitrates added”. Some manufacturers use these voluntarily. Because it sounds healthier, doesn’t it?
Consumer Reports and Center for Science in the Public Interest are taking action against the nitrates labels. They submitted a petition to the USDA, asking that the agency revise its rules.
The USDA told NPR that they’re reviewing the petition. Until then, look closer at the nitrates labels. If they have an asterisk that mentions ‘celery powder’, remember that doesn’t actually mean ‘nitrate-free’. Because nitrates can be pretty unhealthy for you and have been linked to cancer by past research.