Confirmation of safe levels for nitrites and nitrates

Confirmation of safe levels for nitrites and nitrates

Consumer exposure to nitrites and nitrates as food additives is within safe levels for all population groups, except for a slight exceedance in children whose diet is high in foods containing these additives. However, if all dietary sources of nitrites and nitrates are considered, the safe levels (ADIs) may be exceeded for all age groups.

Now EFSA in two recently published opinions on nitrate and nitrite partially supported the IARC conclusions on the link between nitrates and nitrites in processed meat and an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

The current acceptable daily intake for nitrates is 3.7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day and the safe level for nitrites was re-established at 0.07 mg/kg of body weight per day, close to the slightly more conservative existing ADI of 0.06 mg/kg body weight per day.

EFSA, in contrast to IARC, not only looks at the potential for a substance to cause cancer, but also the exposure level necessary. That is practical life conditions. And concluded that existing safe levels for nitrates and nitrites intentionally added to meat and other foods are sufficiently protective for consumers.