What Is Sodium Nitrite?

Sodium nitrite is an antioxidant used as a preservative in fish, meats such as ham, bacon and hot dogs, and other foods to prolong shelf life and prevent spoiling. It is also used as a color fixative and to manufacture certain dyes.

The Facts

Sodium nitrate is safe for humans to consume and is considered an essential food additive because it prevents growth of certain bacteria, including botulism and listeria.


In addition to its uses in food manufacturing, sodium nitrite is used in medicine as an intestinal relaxant and as an antidote for cyanide poisoning.


Sodium nitrite is a strong oxidizer, so it should not come into contact with any organic chemicals. Contact with other chemicals may cause an explosion or violent decomposition.


Sodium nitrite is produced in the human body and controls bacteria in the stomach. The body produces larger quantities of sodium nitrite than it consumes from food.


Leafy vegetables, tubers and a person’a saliva account for more than 93 percent of sodium nitrite produced. Vegetables contain sodium nitrate, a similar chemical that is converted to sodium nitrite when it contacts saliva.

Sodium nitrite is an antioxidant used as a preservative in fish