Natural doesn’t always mean healthy


Turkey, Water, Sea Salt, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Potato Starch, Cane Sugar, Cultured Celery Extract, Spice, Hickory Smoke.

Above are the ingredients of Maple Leaf’s natural selections Turkey with Natural Ingredients. The label catches your eye (and heart) because it clearly states that there are no preservatives added. And moms across the nation have long since discounted lunch meat as a healthy choice for their families because of all the preservatives we know are inside them.

Maple Leaf’s natural selections line seemed to answer our prayers when it came to healthy meal options for school lunches. Alas, a sandwich (with meat) was a sensible choice. Well, maybe not anymore. After reading the upsetting article ‘Natural’ deli meats may not be as healthy as you think in the Globe and Mail yesterday, there were many upset parents.

This really upsets me. I have foolishly been giving this to my daughter under the obvious ignorant assumption that it was not harming her. Lying about it being “a healthier choice” is deplorable.” – Erika, a concerned mother.


The line ‘no preservatives’ seems to have led some of us lunch makers astray. It may have led us down the garden path, but as every parent knows, it’s up to us to do our research. So instead of relying on the article of just one source, I decided to do a little digging myself. Here is what I learned…
I decided to research the ingredients that weren’t totally obvious to me:

Lemon Juice Concentrate: From “Like lemons, lemon juice concentrate derives most of its calories from carbohydrates in the form of sugar. A 3.5-oz. serving of plain lemon juice concentrate has 2 g of protein, 50 g of carbohydrates and 50 g of sugar.

“Lemon juice concentrate is rich in vitamin C and potassium. Other nutrients present in the concentrated juice include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, folate and vitamin A.”

Potato Starch: From “Potato starch is starch extracted from potatoes. The cells of the root tubers of the potato plant contain starch grains (leucoplasts). To extract the starch, the potatoes are crushed; the starch grains are released from the destroyed cells. The starch is then washed out and dried to powder.

“Potato starch contains typical large oval spherical granules; their size ranges between 5 and 100 μm. Potato starch is a very refined starch, containing minimal protein or fat.”

Cultured Celery Extract: So this is the one all the fuss is being made over. What I’ve learned is the CCE is a preserving agent and contains sodium nitrate so to research CCE, you must research sodium nitrate.

Sodium Nitrate: From “Like sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate forms nitrosamines – human carcinogens known to cause DNA damage and increased cellular degeneration.

“Studies have shown a link between increased levels of nitrates and increased deaths from certain diseases including Alzheimer’s, diabetes mellitus and Parkinson’s, possibly through the damaging effect of nitrosamines on DNA.Nitrosamines, formed in cured meats containing sodium nitrate and nitrite, have been linked to gastric cancer and esophageal cancer.”

… these “nitrate-free” products can actually contain many times more nitrates than conventional products.” –


Technically speaking, Cultured Celery Extract is a natural ingredient found in many of our fresh vegetables like spinach, carrots and celery. Sodium nitrate is naturally occurring in CCE and though I am not an expert, I assume that this is where companies can get away with claiming that there are no artificial preservatives in the ingredients of their meats.


FACT: Sodium nitrate is used as a curing agent in meats and when this is done it (sodium nitrate) is converted to something called sodium nitrite.

Nitrates and nitrites are used to help fight bacteria in the meats that we consume. Bacteria like botulinum (botulism) so there is concern that eating ‘nitrate-free’ products can also be dangerous. Some say it can be as dangerous as eating nitrate products.


Sadly, it seems that (like everything else out there that scares the pants off us when it comes to our children) you have to pick the lesser of two evils. Do your research and pick the option that suits your needs the best.

What are your thoughts on the seemingly ‘false advertising’? Do you buy lunch meats for your family and if so will you continue to do so?