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Nitrates and Nitrites

What are the general requirements for nitrates/nitrites in cured meat products?

The use of nitrates and nitrites in cured meat products must comply with the provisions set out in Regulation 1333/2008/EC on food additives.

Controls on nitrate and nitrite in cured meat products are based on the ingoing amount of the additives unless there is a specific derogation contained in the legislation for a particular product, which permits levels to be based on residual amounts in the product.

Non-derogated products are predominantly those meat products which are cured by an injection process, possibly followed by a short period of immersion curing (for less than three days). Dry cure products which are dry cured for less than four days are also considered to be non-derogated.

Derogated products are those produced by ‘traditional’ curing processes and are listed in italics in the Directive. An example of a derogated product is Wiltshire bacon, which is specified in the legislation as “meat which is injected with curing solution followed by immersion curing for 3 to 10 days. The immersion brine solution also includes microbiological starter cultures.”

For more detailed information on this area, please refer to our Guidance Document for Nitrate/Nitrite Sampling of Meat Products.