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J Food Sci. 2015 May;80(5):C942-9. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12858. Epub 2015 Apr 7.

A survey of nitrate and nitrite concentrations in conventional and organic-labeled raw vegetables at retail.

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Dept. of Food Technology, Escuela de Ciencias Aplicadas del Mar, Univ. de Oriente, Núcleo Nueva Esparta, Isla de Margarita, 6301, Venezuela.
Dept. of Animal Science, Texas A&M Univ., 338 Kleberg Center, College Station, TX 77843-2471, USA.
Dept. of Statistics, Texas A&M Univ., Blocker Bldg, College Station, TX 77843-3143, USA.
Dept. of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
Dept. of Nutrition and Food Science, Texas A&M Univ., 122 Kleberg Center, College Station, TX 77843-2253, USA.


A national survey of the nitrate ( NO3(-)) and nitrite ( NO2(-)) concentrations in raw and highly consumed vegetables available at retail in the United States was conducted. A total of 194 samples of fresh broccoli, cabbage, celery, lettuce, and spinach categorized as conventional or organic by label were collected from 5 major cities in different geographic regions of the United States and analyzed to determine NO3(-) and NO2(-) concentrations. There were no differences in the mean NO2(-) values of conventional compared with organic vegetables taken from the 5 metropolitan areas. However, significant differences in mean pairwise comparisons between some conventional and organic vegetables for NO3(-) content were observed. The mean NO2(-) concentration of both conventional and organic vegetables ranged between 0.1 and 1.2 mg/kg of fresh weight (FW) with the exception of conventional spinach that contained 8.0 mg/kg FW. Mean NO3(-) contents of conventional broccoli, cabbage, celery, lettuce, and spinach were 394, 418, 1496, 851, and 2797 mg/kg FW, respectively, while their organic-labeled counterparts averaged 204, 552, 912, 844, and 1318 mg/kg FW. In most cases, organic vegetables were numerically lower in NO3(-) content than their conventional counterparts. Based on survey results, the finding that low NO3(-) levels were observed in some organic vegetables in different cities may warrant further study to determine if true differences exist, due to production practices, seasonal differences, and the magnitudes of those differences. Furthermore, the geographic differences in NO3(-) content of vegetables may flaw estimates of daily NO2(-) and NO3(-) exposure.


nitrate; nitrite; organic; retail; vegetables

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