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Ask Tufts Experts February 2013 Issue

Q: You’ve reported on studies that processed meat should be limited. Does canned chicken have nitrites as well?

Answer : The jury is still out on the health effects of sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite in processed meats, says Tufts’ HNRCA Senior Research Dietitian Helen M. Rasmussen, PhD, RD; excess sodium rather than nitrites/nitrates may be to blame for the health risks seen in epidemiological studies of processed meats. "The caveat for those who are shunning nitrates and nitrites should be to read the label," she says. "A lot of small food businesses are popping up where the spice mixes may have nitrates added to canned meats.” Even brands with no added nitrites can wind up with them from a chemical reaction in added celery juice. Yes, canned chicken is generally processed without nitrites—but check the label.

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