This time there is no doubt: nitrites, these controversial additives used in charcuterie, do represent a danger. In an expected opinion published on Tuesday, July 12, the National Health Security Agency (ANSES) recognizes for the first time the link between the consumption of nitrites and cancer.. “The analysis of bibliographic data confirms the existence of an association between the risk of colorectal cancer and exposure to nitrates and nitrites ingested through processed meat. “, ANSES writes in its expert report. French health agency belatedly endorses the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This independent body attached to the World Health Organization has classified processed meats in the category of proven carcinogens since 2015. According to the IARC, its consumption is the cause of at least 4,300 cases of colorectal cancer each year in France and there are suspicions of cancer of stomach. .
ANSES was seized in June 2020 by the Ministries of Health and Agriculture to assess the risks associated with the consumption of nitrites and nitrates. The file is so sensitive that the agency has taken all its time to deliver its conclusions, initially scheduled for July 2021. The issue has confronted consumer and health protection associations with manufacturers for several years, who insist in which the use of nitroadditives is essential. to prevent the formation of bacteria.
“Health safety goal”
Nitrite and nitrate salts not only give the ham its pink color, but also shorten the transformation processes of sausages and lengthen their shelf life. They are the famous E249 and E250 (potassium and sodium nitrites) and E251 and E252 (sodium and potassium nitrates) in the packages of sliced ham or sausages that are sold vacuum packed. However, nitrite in food (and nitrate converted to nitrite in the body, particularly during digestion) can also contribute to the formation of a group of compounds, called nitrosamines, some of which are carcinogenic.
Likewise, ANSES asks to limit ” everything possible “ its use in food. she even does “a health security goal”. The agency recommends “reduce the population’s exposure to nitrates and nitrites through proactive measures”, but is content to remember the Usual nutritional recommendations: no more than 150 grams of cold cuts per week and at least five fruits and vegetables per day.
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