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woc 11- preventing botulism with nitrites.docx

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CHEM 181
David Harpp

FOOD ADDITIVES pages 209212 PREVENTING BOTULISM WITH NITRITESThe nitrate intake of those who participate in hotdogeating contests exceeds that of the average person by orders of magnitude Given the controversial nature of this food additive the health status of the eating champs merits monitoringOne of the most deadly substances known to mankind is produced by a species of bacteria known as Clostridium botulinum It is 7 million times more toxic than cobra venom and it blocks the action of acetylcholine a neurotransmitter o Symptoms double vision and difficulty in swallowing to paralysis and death o The spores of this bacteria reside in many foods and under the right conditions lack of oxygen and low acidity become active and liberate their toxins o Sausages are the classic food that harbour these sporesBotulism can be prevented by the appropriate use of sodium nitrate This was discovered by accident salting is a way of preserving food by drawing water out of bacteria o It was noticed that salt worked well depending on its source and salt that worked well also improved the meats flavour and colour The secret turned out to be an impurity potassium nitrate more familiar to us as saltpeter a major ingredient used to make gunpowder More accurately the secret is nitrite not nitrateSome bacteria are resistant to salt and have the ability to convert nitrates into nitrites It was soon realized that it was better to use sodium nitrite dire
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