Nitrate, Nitrite, and Cured Versus Uncured Meats
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Meat curing is a food preservation technique that has been used for centuries, evolving from the simple addition of crude salt for control of spoilage to the sophisticated blends of salt, sugar, nitrite, flavorings, and other ingredients that are used for cured meats today. The hams, bacon, frankfurters, and other cured meats in supermarkets today provide consumers with the expected cured meat properties of color and flavor, properties that are consistent because of the curing process regardless of the specific manufacturer. How, then, can one explain the proliferation in the past 10 years of hams, bacon, frankfurters, and similar processed meat products that are labeled "uncured" but that still clearly demonstrate the typical properties of cured meat? This entry discusses the roles of nitrate and nitrite in meat curing, U.S. labeling regulations, and the issues associated with using the "uncured" label.
This chapter is from The SAGE Encyclopedia of Food Issues (2015): 1025. Posted with permission.