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Sodium Nitrite

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I'm doing hot smoked salmon and going to give to lots of friends and family and possibly start a small mail-order business if things go well.  I've been reading and reading about food safety and the use of Sodium Nitrite to inhibit Botulism toxin.

 

What is interesting is that most of the commercial smoked salmon makers that produce a vacuum sealed product, do NOT use Sodium Nitrite in their brine/cure.  Instead there is just a note on the label 'Must be stored below 40F' or something to that effect.

 

The likelihood of Botulism toxin developing is quite low, but if it ever did develop, it could kill someone.  This would be risky to a business which makes me wonder why few use it?  Is it because based on history they've never had a problem so then in the unlikely event they just use liability insurance to protect their business?  Of course if it says refrigerate below 40F and the person didn't, then its not the makers fault.  But what if there is a delay in shipment even when the shipment had ice packs and it is a hot summer?

 

Sodium Nitrite is considered safe.  It is toxic but the amount used to cure meats is very small.  There is evidence it can break down over time into products that have shown to be carcinogens for lab animals.  A lot of people these days that are health-conscious avoid any products with Nitrites or Nitrates in them.  You see at the grocery store, nitrate-free hot dogs, uncured bacon, etc.  These products would probably have the same if not higher possibility of botulism than smoked salmon. 

 

Further research says that it takes 7 days at room temp for botulism to develop in smoked salmon and this is when they injected the spores in it purposely.  At 50F it takes weeks.

 

Yet I talked to a lady that has been running a small commercial smokehouse business for 45 years and she uses prague powder #1 in her dry brine at a rate of about 15% prague powder to 85% normal pickling salt.  The brine it about 2.5 parts of salt/prague to 1 part sugars.  So she's using about 10% prague powder in the dry mix, at 6.25% Sodium nitrite, that means there's about 0.6% sodium nitrite in her dry brine.  For meats, the ratio is 4 ounces per 100 lbs of meat, but I believe that is for actually mixing the stuff into the meat (like sausage) ?

 

This is a somewhat technical subject but this forum has been around a long time.  There must be people here with knowledge/experience regarding use of Sodium Nitrite.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

 

post #2 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzy View Post

I'm doing hot smoked salmon and going to give to lots of friends and family and possibly start a small mail-order business if things go well.  I've been reading and reading about food safety and the use of Sodium Nitrite to inhibit Botulism toxin.

 

What is interesting is that most of the commercial smoked salmon makers that produce a vacuum sealed product, do NOT use Sodium Nitrite in their brine/cure.  Instead there is just a note on the label 'Must be stored below 40F' or something to that effect.

 

The likelihood of Botulism toxin developing is quite low, but if it ever did develop, it could kill someone.  This would be risky to a business which makes me wonder why few use it?  Is it because based on history they've never had a problem so then in the unlikely event they just use liability insurance to protect their business?  Of course if it says refrigerate below 40F and the person didn't, then its not the makers fault.  But what if there is a delay in shipment even when the shipment had ice packs and it is a hot summer?

 

Sodium Nitrite is considered safe.  It is toxic but the amount used to cure meats is very small.  There is evidence it can break down over time into products that have shown to be carcinogens for lab animals.  A lot of people these days that are health-conscious avoid any products with Nitrites or Nitrates in them.  You see at the grocery store, nitrate-free hot dogs, uncured bacon, etc.  These products would probably have the same if not higher possibility of botulism than smoked salmon. 

 

Further research says that it takes 7 days at room temp for botulism to develop in smoked salmon and this is when they injected the spores in it purposely.  At 50F it takes weeks.

 

Yet I talked to a lady that has been running a small commercial smokehouse business for 45 years and she uses prague powder #1 in her dry brine at a rate of about 15% prague powder to 85% normal pickling salt.  The brine it about 2.5 parts of salt/prague to 1 part sugars.  So she's using about 10% prague powder in the dry mix, at 6.25% Sodium nitrite, that means there's about 0.6% sodium nitrite in her dry brine.  For meats, the ratio is 4 ounces per 100 lbs of meat, but I believe that is for actually mixing the stuff into the meat (like sausage) ?

 

This is a somewhat technical subject but this forum has been around a long time.  There must be people here with knowledge/experience regarding use of Sodium Nitrite.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

 

 

Are you talking about dry-curing or wet brining?
 

 

post #3 of 6

If you are going to be offering the product for sale you will fall under a whole set of rules to ensure the public's safety.  In addition to the label saying to keep the product below 40 degrees was there also an expiration date?  You may want to look up the food safety codes, try to find one that addresses your specific application.  They also outline a procedure to have your method reviewed by the governing agency.  I have looked at several methods for smoking fish and most do not require the use of cure.  The fish is brined and then smoked.  I wish I could offer a definitive answer but like you I have read different opinions and I am not comfortable with anything I have read.

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

Well I emailed a local commercial smoker who I know does not use Sodium Nitrite.  It is not required by the FDA.  The guidelines are a minimum 3.5% Water Phase Salt level.  Nitrite is essentially an option if you want to reduce the amount of salt in the finish.  Although Sodium Nitrite is a salt itself so I'm not sure how much different the finished product would be.

 

From the FDA: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/Seafood/FishandFisheriesProductsHazardsandControlsGuide/ucm092180.htm

 

 

  • Control Strategy Example 1 - Smoking

For controlling toxin formation by cold smoking:

Critical Limit: The smoker temperature must not exceed 90°F (32.2°C).

For controlling toxin formation by hot smoking:

Critical Limit:
The internal temperature of the fish must be maintained at or above 145°F (62.8°C) throughout the fish for at least 30 minutes.

For controlling toxin formation by brining, dry salting, and/or drying:

Critical Limit: The minimum or maximum values for the critical factors of the brining/dry salting, and/or drying processes established by a scientific study. The critical factors are those that are necessary to assure that the finished product has:

  • For refrigerated, reduced oxygen packaged (e.g. vacuum or modified atmosphere packaged) smoked fish or smoke-flavored fish, not less than 3.5 percent water phase salt, or, where permitted, the combination of 3.0 percent water phase salt and not less than 100 ppm nitrite.
post #5 of 6

Never done fish or even looked at a recipe. but I guess if it's brined with a heavy enough concentration of salt to give it a 3.5 level of salt in the finished product and also smoked it should be safe and not need the nitrite. I guess it would also be good to know the amount of moisture that you loose during smoking and drying as this will lower the water activity and give you a longer shelf life.

Do you add a sugar to the brine also? 3.5 % is salty.

post #6 of 6

Ya got me interested so I was pockin around the NYS rules and reg's and found this,

 

  1. processed fish that have a water phase salt level of at least 17 percent shall not require refrigerated storage; and
  2. processed fish which contain a water phase salt level of at least 10 percent, a water activity of less than .85, or a pH of 4.6 or lower may be distributed or sold at refrigerated temperatures that do not exceed 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
     

Here's a link to it if you're lookin for more info, I;d bet it's the same as the fed reg's.

http://www.agmkt.state.ny.us/FS/industry/04circs/fishprocandestabCIR1032.htm

 

Anyone remember blind robins? They were dried brined herring that were sold in bars as a snack. Like chewing on a salt lick. They had to be the 17% they mention in #1

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