To replace the pure chemical nitrites of old, many organic meat producers have been substituting celery juice or a powdered extract. Celery is one of many leafy green vegetables with naturally occurring nitrates–about 1,103 parts per million in the fresh plant–so these labelling claims (while technically correct) can seem misleading. It’s just another instance of the organic food industry accidentally replicating what it set out to oppose.
Earlier this year, Cook’s Illustrated tested different types of bacon and found that two brands of “nitrate-free” bacon had significantly more nitrites than their conventional counterpart. “If you want to avoid these compounds,” they wrote, “you’ll have to avoid bacon–and any other processed meats containing celery juice–altogether.”