Frequently Asked Questions on nitrate and nitrite in food

FAQ by the BfR of 11 June 2013

Lettuce and vegetables such as rocket, spinach, kohlrabi, beetroot and radish can contain high quantities of nitrate. Nitrite can form from nitrate in the body or even in the foods themselves due to improper storage, incorrect transport or non-observance of the standard rules of hygiene. Together with the amines or amides produced naturally in the body or ingested with food, N-nitroso compounds can then be produced. Most of these compounds have been proven to be carcinogenic in animal tests. In the view of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), the intake of nitrate and nitrite via food should be reduced. This should be achieved primarily through suitable cultivation and harvesting methods, as well as a targeted selection of foods.

The advantages of a vegetable-rich diet outweigh the possible risks caused by slightly increased nitrate and nitrite levels. Consumers should therefore in no way limit their vegetable consumption, but they should ensure plenty of variety in the vegetables they eat.

The BfR has compiled below a list of common questions and answers on nitrate and nitrite in food:

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