Sodium nitrates can cause blood vessels to narrow and become stiffer. In addition, nitrates may affect the way the body processes sugar and may be to blame for the development of some types of diabetes, the Harvard School of Public Health notes. Some people may experience damage to their heart as a result of preservative use, reports InChem
Sodium nitrate and nitrite are food preservatives often used in meat products. They help to prevent oxidation of meats, keeping them red in color and preventing bacterial growth. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that consumption of nitrates may be linked to an increased risk of cancers, such as leukemia, brain tumors and nasopharyngeal tumors. Nitrates and nitrites may also increase risk for diabetes, diarrhea and respiratory tract infections in children. Ingesting a large amount of these preservatives at one time may cause you to experiences abdominal pain, muscle weakness, bloody stools and fainting, according to the EPA. You’ll find nitrates and nitrites in bacon, lunch meat, hot dogs, sausage, smoked fish, ham and corned beef.
Sodium Nitrate (250) and Sodium Nitrite (251) are used in processed meat such as bacon, ham, sausages, hot dogs, luncheon meats, cured meats and smoked fish to preserve the meats and inhibit the growth of bacteria that causes botulism.
They are also used as a colour fixative to give meat the bright red colour and makes old, dead meats appear fresh and appetising. When used for curing, nitrates react with the meat tissues to form nitrites. Nitrites can react with amines in meats to form nitrosamines, a class of potent carcinogens found in cigarette smoke.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand restrict food manufacturers from putting these preservatives in baby foods but not on foods typically consumed by many children such as hot dogs and luncheon meat.
Infants are very susceptible to nitrate toxicity as they can develop methaemoglobinemia or “blue baby syndrome.” Nitrates may convert to nitrites in the digestive tract. Nitrites can combine with haemoglobin to form methaemoglobin which lacks the ability to carry oxygen in the blood.