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.