Is nitrite free processed meat possible for the mass market?
By Nathan Gray
While no single substitute for nitrite can replace all of its functions a combination of emerging technologies and plant-based ingredients could be used to reduce or completely replace nitrite in processed meats, say researchers.
The review, published Trends in Food Science & Technology, explores a variety of different technologies and ingredients that could be used for the reduction or replacement of nitrites in the production of processed meats.
Led by Amali Alahakoona from Chungnam national University, the international research team noted that with increasing demand for organic and natural meat products, and the increasing evidence of harm from nitrite rich processed meat, a wide section of the industry has begun to explore the development of nitrite alternatives.
“However, no single substitute for nitrite is available that can simultaneously provide all the functions of nitrite,”wrote the team – noting that the ingredient provides a variety of functions including maintaining microbial quality, preventing lipid oxidation, and providing flavor and color.
Indeed, they noted that the challenge for the meat industry is to search for effective strategies to reduce the residual nitrite in cured and processed meat – adding that emerging technologies such as high hydrostatic pressure (HHP) and several plant-based extracts, microbial sources, and organic acids can be effectively used in processed meats as nitrite alternatives.
“Therefore, the most effective approach is to use hurdle technologies for meat curing, in which low levels of sodium nitrite is used in combination with other compounds and/or with other processing technologies possessing inhibitory activities against the most prevalent pathogenic microbes along with better sensory qualities, ”said the team – who noted that further investigations are necessary to confirm the safety of these compounds and technologies on human health prior to their implementation in food industry.
Sources: Trends in Food Science and Technology
Volumen 45, Issue 1. Pages 37-49
“Alternatives to nitrite in processed meat: Up to date”
Authors: Amali U. Alahakoona, et al