SIGN THE PETITION: Get Carcinogenic Nitrosamines Out of Organic Meat by Banning Celery Powder!

Can you get cancer from “USDA Organic” “Uncured” hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky with labels that say “No nitrates or nitrites except those naturally occurring in celery powder?” 

Yes, you can.

Here’s why: When non-organic celery powder grown with nitrate fertilizer is used in certified organic processed meats it interacts with the protein in the meat to create the same carcinogenic substances found in non-organic hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky made with synthetic nitrates or nitrites.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the NOSB to get carcinogenic meat out of organic! “Organic” hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky made with celery powder are carcinogenic just like meats made with synthetic nitrates and nitrites

ban celery powders in uncured meats

Synthetic nitrates and nitrites are banned from USDA-certified organic foods because they interact with chemicals in pork and other animal proteins (haem iron, amines and amides) to form N-nitroso compounds (like nitrosamine) that cause cancer.

That’s one of the reasons consumers choose certified organic processed meats, with labels that say “uncured,” “no nitrates” or “no nitrates.”

But guess what? The naturally occurring nitrates and nitrites in celery powder, which is allowed in organic, interact with chemicals in animal proteins just like synthetic nitrates and nitrites do—and with the same result.

That’s why we know of no certified organic hot dogs, bacon or ham that are truly nitrate-free and non-carcinogenic—and sold in grocery stores nationwide.

If you buy meat from a local butcher or farmer, you may be able to get hot dogs, bacon, ham or jerky that come from organic, grass-fed and pasture-raised animals and don’t contain carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds like nitrosamine. 

But even when you shop with your local butcher or farmer, be sure to ask for nitrate-, nitrite- and celery-powder-free options. 

There are a few farms that will ship these products to you nationally. For example, TC Farm sells Euro-style herb bacon without celery nitrates in its “Sugarless Favorites” pack.

How do they do it? Well, one way to have non-carcinogenic hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky is to either freeze or cook them right away. The ancient use of saltpetre (potassium nitrate) on meat was for the purpose of preservation. It also kept the meat red and gave it part of its taste. So consumers who want to avoid carcinogens have to get used to the muted, less-bright red of nitrate-free hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky and their less-processed taste.

The other way to produce non-carcinogenic hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky is with time. Take Prosciutto di Parma. The Guardian reports:

In 1993, Parma ham producers in Italy made a collective decision to remove nitrates from their products and revert to using only salt, as in the old days. For the past 25 years, no nitrates or nitrites have been used in any Prosciutto di Parma. Even without nitrate or nitrite, the Parma ham stays a deep rosy-pink colour. We now know that the colour in Parma ham is totally harmless, a result of the enzyme reactions during the ham’s 18-month ageing process.

Of course, not all Prosciutto di Parma is organic.

The only way for this campaign to have real teeth—and to protect yourself from cancer when you eat processed meat—is for organic consumers to stop buying hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky, even if those products are certified organic—until the NOSB bans celery powder in processed meats.

Sign the Petition


We write to urge the National Organic Standards Board to vote for celery powder to sunset and be removed from the National List of non-organic substances allowed in organic.

Celery powder is used in organic hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky as a replacement for the synthetic nitrates and nitrites used in non-organic hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky.

However, celery powder, used for the nitrate that accumulates in celery fertilized with synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, has no health advantage over synthetic nitrates and nitrites. It still produces hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines.

Thus, organic hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky are just as likely to cause cancer as non-organic hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky.

Here are a few of the health consequences of consuming hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines:

• Colon cancer: In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group concluded that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer. An association with stomach cancer was also seen, but the evidence is not conclusive. About 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat.

• Breast cancer: Glasgow University researchers collated data from 262,195 British women that suggested reducing processed meat consumption could cut a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

• Manic episodes: A 10-year analysis conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine of more than 1,000 people found patients taken to hospital with manic episodes were three times more likely to have recently eaten nitrite-cured meat.

• Childhood leukemia: University of Southern California epidemiologist John Peters found that children who eat more than 12 hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia.

• Brain tumors in children: Among children, eating hot dogs one or more times per week was associated with brain tumors, according to a study of meat consumption in relation to childhood cancer in Denver, Colorado.

With dangers as acute as those posed by the use of nitrate, no matter the source, there should be no worries about damaging sales of “organic” hot dogs, bacon, ham or jerky, if they can’t be produced without celery powder. “Organic” meats produced with celery powder are carcinogenic and should not be sold.

Likewise, it is wrong to weigh consumer preference for organic hot dogs, bacon, ham or jerky produced with celery powder versus hot dogs, bacon, ham or jerky produced without. It should not be the policy of the National Organic Program to promote the tastiest or most attractive version of a food, when those characteristics are achieved by using an ingredient that makes it carcinogenic. 

It is very concerning that, even as truly nitrate-free processed meat hits the market under non-organic brands including Naked Bacon and Pederson’s Natural Farms, there is currently no certified organic brand offering this. If organic is to remain the gold standard, we can’t let non-organic brands corner the market on non-carcinogenic meat--especially when processed meat made with celery powder might actually produce more carcinogenic nitrosamine than processed meat made with synthetic nitrate.

A study published in The Journal of Food Protection found that natural hot dogs (made with celery powder) had anywhere from one-half to 10 times the amount of nitrite that conventional hot dogs contained. Natural bacon had from about a third as much nitrite as a conventional brand to more than twice as much.

The only decision the National Organic Standards Board can make that aligns with organic principles is to end the production of hot dogs, bacon, ham and jerky contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines by removing celery powder from the National List.

Thank you.