What Not to Eat: Why Do Trader Joe’s “All Natural” Turkey Hot Dogs Contain Nitrites?

Sodium nitrite is a preservative that processers use to stabilize the red color in cured meat (without nitrite, hot dogs and bacon would look gray) and impart a characteristic flavor. Adding nitrite to food can lead to the formation of small amounts of potent cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines. Nitrite that also occurs in saliva and forms from nitrate in several vegetables can undergo the same chemical reaction in the stomach.


The labels on some “natural” hot dogs and other cured meats brag about “no added nitrite.” Be skeptical. While those products may not contain added sodium nitrite, they often are made with celery powder or celery juice, which are naturally high in nitrate. A bacterial culture is used to convert that to nitrite. Indeed in 2011, the New York Times revealed that “natural” cured meats could have 10 times as much nitrite as conventional products!

Trader Joes Hot Dogs

3 Replies to “What Not to Eat: Why Do Trader Joe’s “All Natural” Turkey Hot Dogs Contain Nitrites?”

  1. Trader Joe’s is not the ‘special’ place people think it is. There are issues with much of their items. Their coffee and chocolate are good…cheeses…but other things are downright ‘flaky’. Kudos to you for bringing it to the public’s attention that they are less than ‘stellar’.

  2. So even our saliva is now carcinogenic? I suppose that the answer is, logically, not to be eating processed meats at all. Having said that, we already limit and avoid so many products that I can’t really come up with enough good reasons to give my kids about why they can’t have just a few of the things that everyone else eats. We never go to McDonalds (or most other chains), we don’t give them processed chicken nuggets, we manage to avoid most of the interior aisles of stores, so if I find a reasonable product that will satisfy everyone I’ll go for it. Trader Joe’s really *IS* special. I know it is a niche grocer and the number of products they carry is VERY limited, AND rebranded from other major manufacturers, BUT most (not all) of their food items ARE better than most of the comparable mainstream grocery store products. In general their products have fewer total ingredients, fewer additives/preservatives/colors, less added sodium, and better fat content than regular grocery store items. They have a very large relative selection of organic products and while I know that doesn’t make it any “healthier” or better, or even guarantee that it was made any better, it’s one choice I appreciate not having to pay extra for, there. Yes, I’m a big fan. They’re not perfect, but they’re doing a lot more right than most other stores.

    For the record I prefer the beef version of these same hot dogs. Turkey always seems more questionable to me (and has that more rubbery snap to it), though the quality of “meat” going in to them is not likely to differ significantly between products.

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