• Open Access

Statement on nitrites in meat products


  • EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS)

  • Panel members: F. Aguilar, U.R. Charrondiere, B. Dusemund, P. Galtier, J. Gilbert, D.M. Gott, S. Grilli, R. Gürtler, J. König, C. Lambré, J-C. Larsen, J-C. Leblanc, A. Mortensen, D. Parent-Massin, I. Pratt, I.M.C.M. Rietjens, I. Stankovic, P. Tobback, T. Verguieva, R.A. Woutersen.
  • Correspondence: ans@efsa.europa.eu
  • Adoption date: 11 March 2010
  • Published date: 11 May 2010
  • Question number: EFSA-Q-2010-00097
  • On request from: European Commission


The Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food assess the data provided by the Danish authorities, evaluating in particular whether this information, or any other new scientific developments, indicate that there is scientific evidence for a revision of the maximum limits on nitrites in food adopted in Directive 2006/52/EC. The Panel considered that the terms of reference could be answered by considering three issues including 1) whether the data provided by the Danish authorities would support re-evaluation of the ADI for nitrite, 2) whether the current exposure to nitrite from the proposed uses and use levels would exceed the ADI and 3) what nitrite levels would be required to achieve its preservative effects. The Panel concludes that the data provided by the Danish authorities do not provide a basis to revise the ADI of 0.07 mg/kg bw/day for nitrite. The Panel notes that in several European countries the mean exposure at Tier 2 is above the ADI. At Tier 3, the adult high consumers are just above the ADI while for high consumer children exposure is 2.5 times above the ADI, and the higher range of the mean exposure of children is close to the ADI. The Panel concludes, in line with the SCF assessment in 1995 that exposure to preformed nitrosamines in food should be minimized by appropriate technological practices such as lowering the levels of nitrate and nitrite added to foods to the minimum required to achieve the necessary preservative effect and to ensure microbiological safety. Evaluation of the technological need for the maximum use levels for nitrite adopted in Directive 2006/52/EC of 5 July 2006 is outside the remit of the Panel. However, the Panel notes that this issue has been adequately assessed by others and that the technological need is product specific.