When you buy certified organic processed meats (bacon, ham, salami, hot dogs, etc.) with the words “uncured” and “no nitrates” on the package, you assume you’re avoiding cancer-causing substances, right?
Not if the meat you buy also contains celery powder.
When members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) convene in Pittsburgh this month, they’ll address several controversial issues, including this one: Should celery powder be allowed in certified organic processed meats?
Celery powder? Something so harmless couldn’t have anything to do with the carcinogens found in processed meat from factory farms, could it?
If you’ve been indulging in organic “uncured” meats with “no nitrates,” you need to know that these labels, approved by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are misleading. To understand them, you have to look for the asterix, which will lead you to this disclaimer: “except those naturally occurring in celery powder.”
Here’s the problem: Just like synthetic nitrates, when celery powder’s naturally occurring nitrates interact with proteins in red meat, they form nitrosamines.
Nitrosamines, no matter how they are formed, are carcinogenic even in very small amounts. Every time you eat bacon, ham or other processed meat, your gut gets a dose of nitrosamines, which damage the cells in the lining of the bowel, and can lead to cancer.
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer confirmed that nitrosamines in processed meat cause colorectal cancer.
Despite all this damning evidence, an NOSB subcommittee has taken its first vote on the subject. Shockingly, the subcommittee proposes to allow celery powder to be used for another 5 years starting in 2022!
Meanwhile, non-organic brands like Naked Bacon are starting to offer truly nitrate-free processed meats—from animals raised conventionally.
If the organic movement doesn’t adapt quickly, consumers will start to link “USDA Organic” with the carcinogenic meats they’re trying to avoid.