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Parliamentary questions
PDF 107kWORD 19k
18 July 2018
Question for written answer E-004007-18
to the Commission
Rule 130
Guillaume Balas (S&D) , Michèle Rivasi (Verts/ALE)

 Subject:  Pork products and added nitrates and nitrites, the Commission has to protect consumers!
 Answer in writing 

Scientists have been alerting us of the indirectly carcinogenic nature of added nitrates and nitrites since the 1970s. These food additives, particularly sodium nitrite and potassium nitrate, are added to pork products so as to speed up the production process and give them a pink colour. Nitrates and nitrites are not directly carcinogenic. However, when brought in contact with meat, the nitric oxide present in these additives produces carcinogenic substances that increase the risk of consumers developing colorectal cancer.(1)

The argument that use of these additives protects food from botulism is invalid: strict hygiene conditions offer sufficient safeguards(2). The Commission’s study of January 2016 on the use of nitrites in meat products(3) clearly states that pork products can be produced without the addition of nitrates, while making it clear that producers are against their removal.

In its re-evaluation reports on nitrate additives,(4) the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) failed to take account of the carcinogenic effects of metabolised nitrite additives when setting the maximum permitted level of nitrites in pork products.

In view of the scientific literature on the subject, how can the Commission justify this approach?

Does the Commission intend to call for the swift removal of added nitrates and nitrites from pork products sold in the EU?

(1)See Fabrice Pierre, ‘Produits carnés et risques de cancer : rôle du fer héminique et de la peroxydation lipidique’, Viandes et produits carnés, November 2016.
(2)The fact that Parma ham (which has been free of all nitrate additives since 1993), Corsican sausage, Spanish chorizo or cooked ham from Brittany are produced without nitrites shows this is possible.
(3)Study on the monitoring of the implementation of Directive 2006/52/EC as regards the use of nitrites by industry in different categories of meat products, conducted by Civic Consulting on behalf of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety, January 2016.
(4)EFSA Journal, vol. 15, issues No 6 and No 7, 2017.

Original language of question: FR 
Last updated: 1 August 2018Legal notice