Allergies to Sodium Nitrate

Hot dogs 2 image by William Berry from

Although not extremely common, allergies to sodium nitrate, a food preservative, can be difficult to manage. Adverse reactions to food additives, such as sodium nitrates, range from 0.12% to 2% of the population. They are far more common in those with asthma and prone to allergic rash and hives.

It is important to understand this allergy to manage it effectively.


Sodium nitrate, also referred to as sodium nitrite, is a food preservative used in many foods on the market today. It is commonly found in processed meat. The benefit of using sodium nitrate is that it can preserve meat colour and prevent botulism and overall food spoilage.


Sodium nitrate allergies are not extremely common. However, it is important to recognise the symptoms these additives can cause during an allergic reaction. Symptoms include traditional allergic rhinitis (such as stuffy nose, runny nose, sore throat), problems with asthma, such as an asthma attack, and a skin rash.

Allergic reactions to sodium nitrate usually occur fairly quickly although they can be delayed up to 24 hours. Sometimes reactions can take longer.

Studies indicate that there is more likely to be a reaction from small doses of sodium nitrate over a longer period of time, rather than one large dose in a short period time. This makes studying this type of allergy more difficult since studies are usually done during shorter periods of time.

The amount of sodium nitrate consumed can be linked to the overall severity and intensity of the allergic reaction.

Linked to Increase in Allergies

A study linked the use of food additives to a 40% increase in allergies, asthma, and eczema. Specifically, sodium nitrate has been linked to triggering allergies in general, as well as asthma.

The combination of several additives at once, such as sodium nitrates, benzoates, and sulphites are more likely to trigger an allergic reaction than one single food preservative.

Studies show that food additives, like sodium nitrate, play an important role in developing a food-related hypersensitivity that can develop into an allergic reaction.

How to Avoid

Since sodium nitrate is commonly found in processed meats, such as salami, hot dogs, pepperoni, ham, bacon, bologna, and Spam. If you develop allergies to sodium nitrate, then avoiding these types of meats is crucial. It is better to stick with fresh meats, such as fresh minced meat, chicken, and turkey to avoid a potential allergic reaction to sodium nitrate. Inquiring about the presence of sodium nitrate in any type of meat that is processed is important.


Discovering a sodium nitrate allergy does not mean a complete end to foods you once enjoyed, such as hot dogs and lunch meat. These foods can still be eaten, but you must purchase the "nitrate free" versions. These can easily be found at health food stores and natural food stores. Although the cost is more than their sodium nitrate-containing counterparts, they offer a nice alternative to those who still wish to eat these types of meats but must avoid sodium nitrate.