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Turns out that "all organic, no added nitrates" on a label is totally meaningless, alas.

"If you actually surveyed consumers going out of their way to buy no-nitrate products, they['d be very surprised to learn that there's plenty of nitrates in there," sausage-maker/cookbook-author Bruce Aidells told the New York Times. That includes beef, pork, turkey and chicken dogs and bacon.

"Organic" deli meats use condensed celery juice as a preservative -- but the celery creates a chemical identical to the synthetic chemical sodium nitrite, as in Oscar Meyer dogs. Admittedly, it's much less than in the Bad Dogs of my youth -- 40% less, following USDA regulations. And the nitrates/nitrites aren't all bad. For centuries, they've been used as a powerful preservative to guard against spoilage and, particularly, botulism. (Hey, better to risk colon cancer in the far future than to die of botulism right after the cook-out!)

Amazingly enough, sausage-makers nation-wide are pressuring the USDA to come up with a format for proper label to show buyers what they're really getting.

Real nitrate-nitrate free organic franks and bacon? The boss of Organic Prairie, an organic meat processor, said that when he tried selling deli meat with no nitrates from any source, they flopped totally. "They didn't taste the same, and nobody wanted them."

Hope this hasn't spoiled your weekend cookout!

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Visduh July 6, 2011 @ 8:05 a.m.

You did a service to remind the readers that nitrites and nitrates provide a good service, that of preservation. Long before there was any real knowledge of food spoilage, and long before refrigeration, bacon, hams and sausage could be safely stored and consumed. In recent years the dietary writers have done little but bad-mouth those preservatives without pointing out why they are in such products.

If you want "health food", you don't try to eat hot dogs; those sausages were invented as a way to use up otherwise wasted cuts and parts of the hog. It's that simple. Trying to make them into something that is "natural" or "organic" or "preservative free" is really an exercise in futility. They were and are the poster product for junk food.


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