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The Truth About Nitrite Free Bacon: Separating Fact from Fiction‍‍

cured nitrite free bacon


In recent years, there has been a surge in popularity surrounding nitrite free bacon and nitrate free bacon. Concerns about the potential health risks associated with consuming sodium nitrites, a common preservative used in cured meats, have prompted consumers to seek out alternatives. However, there seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding the topic. In this article, we will delve into the truth about nitrite free bacon, examining the science behind it and whether it truly offers a healthier option for bacon lovers.

Understanding Nitrite Free Bacon

What is Nitrite Free Bacon?

Nitrite free bacon is often misunderstood. Contrary to popular belief, all bacon is technically nitrate free. The confusion arises from the fact that most bacon contains sodium nitrites, not nitrates. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires the use of nitrites as a preservative in cured meats. Therefore, bacon labeled as "uncured" is actually cured using naturally occurring nitrites, such as those found in celery powder.

Nitrates vs Nitrites: What's the Difference?

potassium nitrate bacon cure

To fully understand the controversy surrounding nitrite free bacon, it's essential to distinguish between nitrates and nitrites. Nitrates and nitrites are salts that contain nitrogen and oxygen. Nitrates have three oxygen atoms, while nitrites have two. Nitrates are inert and must be converted into nitrites by bacteria to be used for food preservation. Nitrites play a crucial role in preventing the growth of bacteria in meat, enhancing its color, flavor, and shelf life.

Health Concerns and the Link to Cancer

The primary concern associated with nitrites in bacon is their potential to form nitrosamines when cooked at high temperatures. Nitrosamines are known to be carcinogenic and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer. Several studies have shown that the consumption of processed meats, including bacon, can contribute to an elevated risk of cancer and other adverse health effects. However, it's important to note that it's not the nitrites themselves that are the problem but rather what happens to them during high-temperature cooking.

The Science Behind Nitrite Free Bacon

The Role of Celery Powder

Many nitrite-free bacon products on the market utilize celery powder as a natural alternative to sodium nitrite. Celery powder contains naturally occurring nitrites, which are responsible for the preservation of the meat. However, it's crucial to understand that bacon made with celery powder is not truly nitrite-free. The nitrites present in celery powder can still convert into nitrosamines when exposed to high temperatures during cooking.

Nitrite Levels in Nitrite Free Bacon

Surprisingly, studies have shown that nitrite-free bacon may contain higher levels of nitrites compared to traditionally cured bacon. Laboratory tests conducted on different bacon products revealed that uncured bacon had higher average nitrite levels than cured bacon. This finding challenges the common perception that nitrite-free bacon is a healthier option.

Making an Informed Choice

The Importance of Labeling

One of the major challenges for consumers looking to buy nitrite-free bacon is the misleading labeling found in the market. Bacon labeled as "uncured" or "nitrate/nitrite free" often contains disclaimers stating that it may still contain naturally occurring nitrites from ingredients like celery powder. These disclaimers can create confusion among consumers, leading them to believe that these products are truly nitrite-free when, in fact, they still contain nitrites.

The Search for True Nitrite Free Bacon

Finding truly nitrite free bacon can be a daunting task due to the widespread use of celery powder as a natural alternative to sodium nitrite. However, some brands have developed innovative methods to produce bacon without the use of nitrites or celery powder - Primal Cut bacon does not use Celery powder. These brands rely on a blend of Mediterranean herbs and extracts that have been scientifically proven to be as effective as traditional curing methods.


In conclusion, the quest for nitrate-free bacon is more complex than it may initially seem. While bacon labeled as "uncured" or "nitrate/nitrite free" may appear to be a healthier alternative, it's important to understand that these products still contain naturally occurring nitrates and nitrites. The potential health risks associated with nitrites in bacon are primarily linked to their conversion into nitrosamines during high-temperature cooking. Consumers should be cautious when choosing bacon and consider the overall integrity and claims made by the producer. Ultimately, making an informed choice about bacon consumption involves understanding the science behind the different curing methods and the potential risks involved. Rest assured Primal Cut Nitrate Free Bacon is all-natural and made with free-range pork - please remember, don't crucify your bacon!

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kate oliver - Primal Cut co-founder

Hi! I'm Kate, Co-Founder of Primal Cut, mum, wife & Primal Baker! I live with my husband and partner Michael. Ideally located in the spa town of Ilkley, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales its where we handcraft our range of healthy, nutrient dense, free from food.

From delicious Primal Alternative keto granolas to gluten free low carb bread, from vegan wraps to healthy sausages, nitrate-free bacon & charcuterie - it's all here. The fact that gluten-free is better for all, including keto and low carb means our food offers convenient, time-saving grain free alternatives that will help keep you on track during your journey back to health!

For the full range of healthy convenience foods check out our shop

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