The Food Doctor - Healing Foods for Mind and Body Food Additives, Nutrients, and Supplements A to Z

E251 is a food additive approved by the European Union (EU). It is a natural mineral that acts as a preservative in food products (especially as a curing agent in meat), due to its antimicrobial properties.

The common name for E251 is sodium nitrate. It may also be known as Chile saltpetre. In mineral form, it may be known as soda nitre or nitratine. E251 is not to be confused with E250 (sodium nitrite).

E251 may also be used in the manufacture of nitric acid for fertiliser, as well as for heat transfer in solar power plants. It can be synthesised industrially by the neutralisation of nitric acid by soda ash.

The compund E251 alone is not dangerous. However, it may become harmful when combined with antioxidants in fruit - becoming an irritant to skin, eyes and the respiratory system.

Examples of food and drink products that sometimes include E251:

  • meat (smoked, cured and processed)
  • cheese
  • root vegetables

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