Foodwatch France calls for a ban on nitrite additives in processed meats

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Foodwatch launches online petition to ban nitrite additives in meat. Photo: Foodwatch France.
Foodwatch launches online petition to ban nitrite additives in meat. Photo: Foodwatch France.

Related tags Foodwatch Nitrite Food safety Packaging equipment & materials

Foodwatch France has partnered with Yuka and the Cancer League to demand a diet without added nitrite including; E249 (potassium nitrite), E 250 (sodium nitrite), E251 (sodium nitrate) and E252 (nitrate) used in processed meats such as industrial sausages.

The organisation claims when digested, nitrates can contribute to the formation of carcinogenic compounds in our stomach: nitrosamines.

Online petition

These substances are classified as probable carcinogens to humans (category 2A) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), as they promote the development of colorectal cancer.

Ingrid Kragl, director of public information, Foodwatch France, told GlobalMeatNews, Foodwatch is a European NGO and the regulation on additives is decided at the European level.

We are fighting this ban on nitrite additives at the French level for now. Ultimately, we want all European citizens to be protected the same way​,” she said.

"Tthere were a debate at the French Parliament (Assemblée nationale) recently. But Foodwatch, Yuka and Ligue Contre le Cancer are asking for a complete ban as these additives are known for their health risks​."

Kragl said the French Government has also announced a decree​ to suspend selling food containing the additive E171. But the date chosen by Government to suspend the marketing of additive E171 is January 1, 2020.

It launched a petition​ on banning nitrite additives on November 20, addressed to Agnès Buzyn, Health Minister, France; Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Economy and Finance; and Didier Guillaume, Minister of Agriculture and Food. 

The letter in partnership with Yuka and the Cancer League, has so far attracted nearly 200,000 signatures and states;

‘Madam Minister,


Nitrite and nitrate additives in our diet present a well-identified health hazard. The experts from IARC and INRA are formal: when ingested, they can contribute to the formation of carcinogenic compounds in our stomach, nitrosamines. These substances promote the development of colorectal cancer, the second most deadly cancer after lung cancer, stomach cancer and increase the risk of developing blood disease.

The presence of these nitrate additives in industrial meat products is one of the factors that led IARC to classify this sausage as a carcinogen for humans.

Therefore, we urge you, Minister, Ministers, to ban added nitrite in all food products, ie additives - E249 (potassium nitrite), E 250 (sodium nitrite) , E251 (sodium nitrate) and E252 (potassium nitrate) as quickly as possible to protect our health.’

Foodwatch, which has offices in Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, is a non-profit organization (part of Foodwatch International) that fights for safe, healthy and affordable food for all. It advocates for more transparency in the food sector, and defends consumers’ rights to food that does not harm people or the environment

‘We want to eat without being exposed to a potential cancer risk because of controversial additives’, it says.

Yuka mobile app


As part of its work ‘for a healthier and more transparent diet in France and Europe’ Foodwatch is promoting Yuka’s mobile app, where consumers can scan the ingredients list on a product’s packaging to verify its contents.

The app is currently available in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Spain and the UK.

When someone scans a product with a bad score, Yuka recommends an equivalent product that is better for your health. These recommendations are made completely independently.

Fruit yogurts with no fruit, high-sugar snacks marketed as fitness foods, miracle-health products with dangerous side effects: when it comes to packaged foods, misleading information is not the exception but the rule​,” a Foodwatch spokesman said.

Manufacturers use tricks to make their products look more appealing – because the competition is doing the same. What is worse, these tricks are absolutely legal, and no public authority can intervene. Food law tolerates many cases of misleading labelling – and consumers are left to fend for themselves​.

As long as misleading labelling is legal, companies will not change their ways. Therefore, these fraudulent practices must be prohibited. Self-invented seals of approval and voluntary commitments by industry will do nothing to help the situation. The only solution is to establish clear legal requirements for understandable product information. Legal loopholes must be closed, and companies must be required to provide the most important information on their packaging in understandable terms and formats. Foodwatch has introduced a 15-point plan​ with necessary legal changes for making labels more honest​.

"Whether it’s a French tortellini product with practically none of the promised parmesan, a Dutch “blueberry-raspberry” drink containing nearly 100% apple juice or a German organic baby tea with far too much sugar – Foodwatch exposes how consumers are being purposefully and blatantly deceived by the sophisticated schemes of the food industry. We accomplish this through background analyses and market studies, as well as email campaigns that enable consumers to not only complain directly to the manufacturers but also demand action from policy-makers​. 

In addition, Foodwatch confronts food manufacturers and organises annual awards in Germany and the Netherlands for the most brazen advertising lie of the year: the “Goldener Windbeutel​” and the “Gouden Windei”​.  

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