E249 is a food additive approved by the European Union (EU) and used as an antibacterial synthetic preservative in food products, as well as a colour fixative and curing agent in meats.
The common name for E249 is potassium nitrite.
E249 is the salt of nitrous acid and is highly oxidising.
An excess of E249 in the blood may reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of haemoglobin in the red blood cells. This may lead to headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath. Another concern is that, once in the stomach, nitrates can form nitrosamines, which are thought to be carcinogens. There are some concerns that E249 might have a deteriorating effect on the adrenal glands.
E249 is not permitted in food for infants and young children.
Examples of food and drink products that sometimes include E249:
- meat (smoked, cured and processed)
- root vegetables