Meat Preservation Technology
Handbook from C.H.I.P.S.

Nitrite Curing of Meat
The N-Nitrosamine Problem and Nitrite Alternatives
by Ronald B. Pegg and Fereidoon Shahidi

Nitrite Curing of Meat covers:

  • the desirable attributes which sodium nitrite confers to meat during processing
  • drawbacks of nitrite usage, i.e., the presence of N-nitrosamines
  • solutions for the curing of meat without the use of nitrite
  • an examination of a multicomponent nitrite-free curing system entailing the color, flavor, and microbial protection of such a system
  • and more!



  • Cured meat products and residual nitrite
  • Cured meats and N-nitrosamines

History of the Curing Process

  • Dry-cured hams
  • Discovery of nitrite as the true meat curing ingredient
  • Current status of processed meats

The Color of Meat

  • Mycoglobin and fresh meat color
  • Cured meat color
  • Characterization of nitrosylheme pigments
  • Evidence for a dinitrosylheme complex
  • Evidence for a mononitrosylheme complex
  • Visible absorption spectroscopy
  • Infrared (IR) spectroscopy
  • Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy

Oxidative Stability of Meat Lipids

  • Lipid oxidation of uncured meats
  • Lipid oxidation of nitrite-cured meats
  • Mechanism of the antioxidative action of nitrite
  • Assessment of lipid oxidation in meats by the 2-thiobarbituric (TBA) test
  • Complications raised by nitrite in the TBA test
  • Hexanal analysis as an alternative to the TBA test for the oxidative stability of meat lipids
  • Usefulness of hexanal as a primary indicator of MFD

Flavor of Meat

  • Flavor of uncured meat
  • Heat-induced meat flavor
  • Flavor of nitrite-cured meat
  • Flavor of dry-cured hams

Meat Microbiology

  • Spoilage of meat and meat products
  • Clostridium botulinum in meat
  • Bacteriostatic properties of nitrite

The Fate of Nitrite

  • Reactions of nitrite
  • N tracer studies
  • Determination of residual nitrite in cured meat products and limitations in the assay
  • Present residual nitrite levels

Potential Health Concerns about Nitrite

  • Chemistry of nitrosation
  • Carcinogenicity of N-nitroso compunds
  • Detection of N-nitrosamines
  • Volatile N-nitrosamines
  • Thermal energy analyzer (TEA)
  • Non-volatile N-nitroso compunds (NVNCs)
  • Presence of N-nitrosamines in cured muscle foods
  • Actions taken by the meat industry
  • N-nitrosamine inhibitors
  • Impact of a nitrite ban

Possible Substitutes for Nitrite

  • Color characteristics
  • Nitrite-free curing using the preformed cooked cured-meat pigment (CCMP)
  • Application of CCMP to meat systems
  • Preparation of teh powdered cooked cured-meat pigment (PCCMP)
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Flavor characteristics
  • Antimicrobial properties
  • Cumulative effects of nitrite-free curing mixtures
  • Taking another look at nitrite


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Nitrite Curing of Meat
The N-Nitrosamine Problem and Nitrite Alternatives
by Ronald B. Pegg and Fereidoon Shahidi

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