Adding nitrite to meat changes the color, flavor, and its resistance to spoilage. Curing is a good thing. And I love cured products. Especially, bacon. However, like everything in life, there are some extremely remote risks associated with nitrites (it has something to do with cooking temperature and eating more than is humanly possible). Consumers, who desire to be risk-free, are inclined to think “no nitrites added” is a good thing and lowers their risk of some remotely possible bad thing happening to them. (They could actually meaningfully lower their risk of a bad thing happening if they’d just quit trying to drink their Mocha Latte Grande while driving on the freeway, but that’s something for another day.) Some businesses, who hunt for opportunities like raptors in Jurassic Park, spotted this consumer inclination. Cue Research and the Marketing department (where apparently some raptors live)…
Nitrite (and its partner ascorbic acid) is very strictly controlled in the curing process. And I mean strictly controlled. As in, its treated like uranium (Iran, not withstanding). And because some guy wrote a book called The Jungle like over a hundred years ago, meat companies have government control in their facilities unlike any other category of food. USDA inspectors. They have badges. You don’t screw with them. Us meatheads know. They shut you down and take away any fun you might have thought you were having feeding the world.
It turns out that with a little finagling some food companies figured out how they could get the nitrites they need into the product by a means other than taking it out of the vault and dumping it into the curing solution under the watchful eye of the guy with a badge. Celery powder. People who slam bacon full of celery powder know a couple things (besides the fact celery is 99.9999% water and reducing it to powder must take a lot of energy). They know celery is home to lots of nitrate (which is not the same as nitrite but let me explain). And they know that nitrate is Dr. Jekyll and nitrite is Mr. Hyde. Or if you prefer, nitrate is David Banner and nitrite is the Hulk. Whatever. So, all they had to do was tinker a little with celery powder and – waalaa – Mr. Hyde, or the Hulk, showed up in full strength. And since they’re adding celery powder, the guy with the badge doesn’t really know what to do about it.
But, the guys with the badges are working on it. And that’s why it’s going to raise my taxes. The Feds are going to study the situation (God, help us) and then they’re going to be really ticked off that companies got around their guys with badges, their labeling regulations, and misled consumers. They’re going to be really embarrassed about it. Then they’re going to add more regulations so their guys with badges, and consumers, don’t get fooled again. That’s going to take away the fun for all food companies. Because the Fed is a lot like a really paranoid Paul Blart, Mall Cop. They start thinking everyone’s sneaking around behind their backs. And that leads to more regulations which cut into the profits of all businesses, even the ones not inclined to mislead consumers and who actually like Paul Blart.
So, if you’re a food company going after this bogus “opportunity” to sell more cured stuff, quit it. You’re not fooling most of us and you’re making the guys with badges mad. That’s not good for anybody’s business.
And if you’re a consumer buying these products, quit it. And don’t be so lazy. Read the label. You know, the part that says something like “except that which naturally occurs”. You’re being duped. It just encourages them to mislead you again.And it gives them the money to do it. Stick with the almost infinitesimal risk of eating good old fashioned cured bacon. The guys with badges will be happier. The companies that aren’t trying to mislead consumers will be rewarded. And you won’t raise my taxes.