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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) – If you’ve been buying natural and organic hot dogs thinking they’re healthier, you may want to think again.
The packages say all-natural, uncured and no nitrates or nitrites added.
“Nitrites are in these products whether they’re added synthetically by sodium nitrite or whether they’re added naturally by adding natural ingredients that still have nitrites in them,” Juliette Simms from The Prevention Institute said.
Simms points to a flaw in federal labeling mandates.
They require meat products with natural preservatives to label the products uncured and “no nitrates or nitrites added,” even though they are cured and do contain the chemicals that have long been linked to cancer.
Bruce Aidells,of Aidells Sausage also holds a Ph.D. in biology.
He said that specially treated celery juice is added to the “all natural” meat products as an alternative to synthetic nitrates.
When treated with a bacterial culture, the celery juice also produces nitrites in spite of what the label may lead you to believe.
“They say no nitrates or nitrites added except what is naturally occurring in the celery juice and you definitely added that celery juice, trust me it’s not in pork or beef,” Aidells said.
Nitrates give the hot dogs their color and act as a preservative as well as an anti-microbial.
But, are naturally derived nitrites any safer that the synthetic ones so many health conscious shoppers try to avoid?
In a rare move, the hot dog manufactures are siding with health advocates and pushing the federal government for more honest labeling.
“It’s really difficult for families to make healthy decisions when it can be so confusing,” Simms said.
The FDA said it is open to reviewing its hot dog labeling guidelines.
The industry pointed out that there are far fewer nitrites in processed meats today than there were 40 years ago.