What is sodium nitrite?
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. In addition USDA-sponsored research indicates that nitrite can help prevent the growth of Listeria monocytogenes, an environmental bacterium that can cause illness in some at-risk populations.