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Nitrates and nitrites are short names for “sodium nitrate” and “sodium nitrite” which are forms of salt. Salt (sodium chloride) has been used for thousands of years to preserve meat well before the discovery of refrigeration.
Sodium nitrite is a salt and an anti-oxidant that is used to cure meats like ham, bacon and hot dogs. Nitrite serves a vital public health function: it blocks the growth of botulism-causing bacteria and prevents spoilage. Nitrite also gives cured meats their characteristic color and flavor.
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