Winter 2017

Safely Preserved

Does celery juice cure the problem?

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Photo: Shutterstock

Joel B. Mason, a professor at the Friedman School and Tufts School of Medicine and director of the Vitamins and Carcinogenesis Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, serves as our expert.

Q : Are the nitrates/nitrites in celery juice used in some processed-meat products as a preservative and color enhancer really safer than products containing regular additives?

A: Nowadays, many processed meats advertise themselves as being “uncured” and “containing no nitrites or nitrates other than what naturally occurs in celery juice.” The implication is that this is healthier, since nitrites and nitrates have been implicated as possibly increasing the risks of certain cancers.

In reality, there is little reason to believe that the nitrates or nitrites in celery juice are any safer, although to my knowledge, the form that is added to processed meats has not been compared to that which appears in celery juice in regards to the potential for promoting cancer risk.

It is also worth pointing out that federal law strictly limits the amount of commercially produced nitrate or nitrite that can be added to meat, whereas the amount added in the form of celery juice is not regulated.

Send your questions for future installments of “Ask Tufts Nutrition” to Julie Flaherty, Tufts University Editorial Office, 80 George Street, Medford, MA 02155 or email

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