Relevance of nitrate and nitrite in dry-cured ham and their effects on aroma development
Keywords:Aroma, Dry-cured ham, Flavour, Nitrate, Nitrite, Nitrosamines
Potassium and sodium salts of nitrite (E 249 and E 250) and nitrate (E 251 and E 252) are authorised for use under certain levels in several foodstuffs such as non-heat-treated, cured and dried meat products, other cured meat products, canned meat products and bacon. The key point in the use of nitrate and nitrite as preservatives is to find a balance between ensuring the microbiological safety of the ham and keeping as low as possible the level of nitrosamines in the final product. Nitrites and nitrates are authorised as additives for dry-cured ham in the Directive 2006/52/EC of 5 July 2006 that modifies previous Council Directive 95/2/EC on food additives other than colours and sweeteners. The effect of nitrate and its reduction to nitrite in controlling the lipid oxidation process during the ham ripening is very important for the development of the characteristic cured flavour. The main benefits and drawbacks of the use of nitrites and nitrates in dry-cured ham and how these levels may affect its flavour are discussed in this manuscript.
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