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The curing of meat products is one of the most important meat technology processes and its purpose is to develop boil-proof colour, to preserve the meat (selective inhibition of micro-organisms) and to form the typical cured flavour.
Saltpetre (as sodium or potassium nitrate) or nitrite curing salt (i.e. a homogeneous mixture of table salt and a maximum of 0.6% sodium or potassium nitrite) are used as curing substances. These are broken down in several steps to nitrogen oxide, which is bound to the muscle pigment myoglobin (either to reduced myoglobin or to metmyoglobin). Legally prescribed limits for the nitrate or nitrite content refer mainly to the residual content in the product (cf. Additives Ordinance, Annex 7D, point 4.2).
Curing is occasionally called into question due to the possible formation of nitrosamines, which can have a carcinogenic effect. More recent investigations indicate that between 3 and 10% of nitrosamines occurring in the body originate from food and the rest are formed in the body. The addition of ascorbic acid/ascorbate can prevent the formation of new nitrosamines, but also seems to reduce their breakdown in the body.
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