August 28, 2015
Big Food Spreads Lies on Their Food Labels – Part 5
The last part of this topic is uncured meat. Another popular clean-label switch is to remove nitrates, or nitrite preservatives, from processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and cold cuts. Several studies have shown that people who eat a lot of processed meats have higher risks for heart disease and cancer.
Some researchers think nitrates, which are used to keep meat pink and fresh looking, combine with chemicals in the meat to form nitrosamines, which are recognized carcinogens. Again, this may be true, but there are few conclusive studies to prove this.
Food writer Michael Ruhlman noticed that packages of processed meats labeled uncured or without nitrates still had a pink color. Ruhlman started poring over the ingredient labels of uncured meats, and they all had something in common: celery extract.
Celery is loaded with nitrates. But, as long as a meat doesn’t contain sodium nitrite, the chemical form of the preservative, the USDA allows manufacturers to call their products uncured. “It’s a marketing ploy, pure and simple,” Ruhlman says.
And it doesn’t mean the meats have less nitrite in them, according to Jimmy Keeton, a researcher at Texas A&M University in College Station. He tested 470 different meat products. Some were labeled as uncured organic, or natural, while others were conventionally cured. There were no significant differences in the nitrite concentrations between the products.
“I like people to understand and think clearly about food, and here, no one is thinking clearly about food. They’re just buying what the marketers are selling them,” he says. He says he hopes big food companies will just make better products.
From my own unscientific research, I feel I can say with some confidence that the food manufacturers will continue to harm its customers, as they are more concerned with the bottom line than they are about food safety. The nutrition of manufactured food is the last concern of Big Food.
I believe, when I look back to the history of ingredient list requirements, that the goal was for that to be a marketing tool. Everything in food should be safe and I wish I could say that, but without the oversight of the FDA, we still have a long way to go to make food safety work.
Part 5 of 5 parts.