Nitrate occurs naturally in the soil, but is also applied to arable land through fertilization. Rainfall can cause nitrate to leach into groundwater, thus affecting drinking water quality. As food additives, nitrate and nitrite are used to preserve meat, fish and best mmended cheeses. The main sources of nitrate intake are vegetables and drinking water. Bacteria that occur naturally in saliva reduce some of the nitrate supplied to nitrite. In the acidic environment of the stomach, nitrite may react with amines and/or amides to form N-nitroso compounds (NOC), which have been shown to be carcinogenic in animal studies.
At the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), a total of 3473 food samples were analyzed for nitrate from 2013 to 2017. The highest nitrate levels in vegetables were found in the leafy vegetables food group in arugula.
The calculations carried out on the nitrate and nitrites exposure of the Austrian population show that the average intake levels are below the respective ADI value. Only in calculations with high consumption the ADI value for nitrate is exceeded in children. An occasional exceeding of the ADI does not yet represent a danger for the population group concerned.
MIHATS Daniela, RAUSCHER-GABERNIG Elke