Researchers at QUB probe nitrates cancer link
Nitrates used in the curing process for processed meats can produce chemicals that cause an increased risk of colorectal cancer, scientists at Queen's University have discovered.
QUB researchers Dr Marie Cantwell and Professor Chris Elliott found a direct link between nitrates used to produce bacon and dangerous nitrosamines.
Nitrate and nitrite are used as additives to improve food quality and protect against microbial contamination. They are sources of N-nitroso compounds (NOCs) which are known carcinogens - a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.
However, the report shows that a wide range of factors affect the formation of the NOCs including the amount of nitrite added, meat quality, fat content, processing, packaging and how the meat is handled at home.
Professor Elliott said: "From a health perspective, it is certainly beneficial to reduce our intake of nitrates and nitrites from processed meat."