Amount of nitrites and nitrates in meat products from the Croatian market

Nitrites and nitrates are food additives (preservatives) with wide application in the meat industry. They improve the quality, durability and safety of products, and, above all, inhibit the growth and reproduction of bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium botulinum. There have been numerous attempts to reduce the use of nitrites in the meat industry due to their adverse effects on human health and proven carcinogenic effects of nitrosamines.

The aim of this study was to determine varying levels of nitrates and nitrites in meat products sold on the Croatian market over a period of 4 years (2011 – 2014) by applying enzymatic colorimetric methods and comparing obtained results with maximum residue levels (MRLs) prescribed by the Ordinance on the Amendments to the Ordinance on Food Additives (Official Gazette No. 79/2012) and the Commission Regulation (EU) No. 1129/2011. A total of 448 samples of dry-cured and heat-treated sausages (n = 410), as well as semi-durable and durable meat products (n = 38) produced by Croatian meat industries, were analysed. The average amount of sodium nitrate in dry-cured sausages and durable meat products amounted to 130±72 mg kg-1 and 64±43 mg kg-1, respectively. The amount of sodium nitrite in different meat products amounted to 7±4 mg kg-1 (dry-cured sausages), 24±16 mg kg-1(heat-treated sausages), 37±23 mg kg-1 (durable dry-cured meat products) and 42±21 mg kg-1 (semi-durable dry-cured meat products).

Certain meat products within each group showed a statistically significant difference (p <0.05) from their respective group of products. Compared to maximum residue levels, amounts of nitrates and nitrites were higher in two types of heat-treated sausages (109 mg kg-1 and 115 mg kg-1) and one type of dry-cured sausage (315 mg kg-1). The research results reveal the need for continuous monitoring of nitrate and nitrite levels in finished products available on the market, additional research of conditions conducive to the formation of nitrosamines and wider application of technological processes that reduce the use of these additives in the meat industry.

Kovačević, D., K. Mastanjević, K. Ćosić, J. Pleadin

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