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Does nitrite cause cancer?

Nitrite has never been shown to cause cancer in humans or animals. The American Cancer Society concluded in its 1996 dietary guidelines that "nitrites in foods are not a significant cause of cancer among Americans." A 1996 (American) National Research Council (NRC) report entitled "Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet" made no mention of cancer or its risk associated with cured meat consumption. European regulatory authorities concur with these statements.

After much debate about the rodent studies of 1974 and 1978 that indicated that nitrite digestive reaction-products (N-nitroso compounds) were carcinogenic, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS)/NRC conducted a review of the safety of nitrite. In 1981, the NAS Committee on Nitrite and Alternative Curing Agents in Foods issued a report that concluded that neither nitrite nor nitrate directly caused cancer in animals. Studies did not provide sufficient evidence to conclude otherwise.

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