N-Nitroso amines are now more often called nitrosoamines. Studies have shown nitrosoamines formed from secondary amines and nitrogen oxide or nitrous acid may cause cancer in been found to induce cancer in a variety of organs in over 40 animal species including higher primates (Bogovski, 1981) and it is strongly presumed that they are strong carcinogens in human beings.
It has long been known that nitrosoamines are present in many of our foodstuffs such as salted fish, kippers, roast beef, satay, beers etc. and part of the daily diet of a lot of the world’s population. Some nitrosoamines are synthesized within human or animal body systems.
Sodium nitrite is used as an additive to allow processed meats such as corned beef and bacon to retain the natural red colour It is completely harmless,like table salt, however, certain bacteria normally found in the stomach are able to convert sodium nitrite into nitrosoamines. The bacteria which convert harmless sodium nitrite into cancer causing nitrosoamines are suppressed by vitamin C in the diet. Up to 20% of ingested nitrate is endogenously reduced to nitrite, which can undergo nitrosation in the stomach (intestine, bladder) with amines and amides to form N-nitroso compounds (NOCs).Conversion rate depends on presence of nitrosation inhibitors (vitamins C, E, other antioxidants)