What do nitrates and nitrites have to do with preserving food?
(Lansing State Journal, June 22, 1994)
Lately, there has been some concern about the use of nitrites as preservatives. It appears that, in the body, nitrites can be converted in to nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are a class of chemicals that may be carcinogenic in humans. Because of this, the United States Department of Agriculture strictly limits the amount of nitrates and nitrites in meat products.
There are many ways to preserve food. Some common methods include salting, smoking, canning and refrigeration. All of these processes inhibit the growth of microorganisms and the natural breakdown of foods that we call spoiling.