Study on the influence of food processing on nitrate levels in vegetables

vegetable, nitrate, food processing
First published in EFSA Supporting Publications
5 décembre 2013
26 novembre 2013
External Scientific Report

The present document has been produced and adopted by the bodies identified above as author(s). In accordance with Article 36 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, this task has been carried out exclusively by the author(s) in the context of a grant agreement between the European Food Safety Authority and the author(s). The present document is published complying with the transparency principle to which the Authority is subject. It cannot be considered as an output adopted by the Authority. The European Food Safety Authority reserves its rights, view and position as regards the issues addressed and the conclusions reached in the present document, without prejudice to the rights of the authors.


Nitrate is a naturally occurring compound that is part of the nitrogen cycle, as well as an approved food additive. Vegetables are the major source of nitrate in our nutrition, but nitrate content depends on type of vegetable as well as on environmental and agricultural factors. Apart from external factors, nitrate content of the vegetable can be influenced by kitchen processing techniques (PTs) used for preparing vegetables for food. In the present work we studied effects of common kitchen PTs on nitrate content in lettuce, spinach, potato, green bean, carrot, red beet, white cabbage, Chinese cabbage and courgette. Changes in the nitrate content between raw and processed samples were statistically evaluated where possible with respect to winter or summer time of harvest, agricultural cultivation and vegetable variety. In general, some kitchen PTs i.e boiling and washing decreased nitrate content irrespectively of the vegetable type. Blanching and purée decreased nitrate content during processing of all tested vegetables. In contrast, some techniques increased nitrate content i.e. deep frying, sauté and grilling. Time of harvest and agricultural cultivation system influenced nitrate content in raw vegetables, but were generally found less important for the changes during processing. Further research is needed for determination of vegetable varieties with the highest nitrate reduction during processing.

contam [at]
Question Number
On request from