Are Nitrates in Bacon Harmful?
Get the details on the health risks, plus how you can combat them.
What they are: Nitrates and nitrites are chemical compounds found in many foods, including some salts. Salt containing nitrates has been favored for preserving meat because it maintains color and flavor while inhibiting bacterial growth.
Why they're unhealthy: Nitrates have been linked to infant methemoglobinemia, a deficiency of oxygen in the blood. Also, nitrate can interact with the amines in protein to form nitrosamines, which have been linked to cancer in lab animals.
What's being done: The USDA now requires bacon processors to add antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, which have been proven to inhibit nitrosamine formation. But if you're still worried, you can limit your intake by sticking with nitrate-free bacon products, having your bacon with a glass of antioxidant-rich orange juice, and not overcooking your strips. Studies have shown that well-done bacon contains more nitrosamines.