The short answer to your question is no. One of the main benefits of nitrates and nitrites is that they inhibit the growth of very bad bacteria. Bacteria are more robust the warmer it gets between 40 and 140 degrees. In addition, they help maintain a nice pink color to the meat and impart a particular flavor.
I’m not sure if your question is premised on a fear of nitrates/nitrites. We ingest 80% of our nitrates/nitrites from vegetables. When used in charcuterie, NITRITES are what we’re after and they break down into harmless nitrous oxide after they are done completing their magic. NITRATES are broken down into nitrites, which do the aforesaid magic. A combination of nitrates and nitrites is used to assist in a longer cure. The nitrites are broken down as the nitrates are being converted to nitrites.
Have you seen nitrate/nitrite free bacon in the store? If you read the label closely, it probably contains some form of celery, which has a ton of nitrates/nitrites in it and does the exact same thing we accomplish with pink salt. Regardless of where it comes from, the molecular structure of nitrates and nitrites is exactly the same. USDA rules do not yet account for products cured with plant-based sources of nitrates and nitrites so they can say it’s “all natural.”
According to the University of Wisconsin, levels of nitrates and nitrites present in cured meats is between .00002 – .004%, while the veggies, and especially leafy greens people are so fond of, contain anywhere from .1 – 1%. At least 90% of the nitrates and nitrites we use in our products are broken down and completely harmless.
With that being said, nitrites can be harmful at elevated levels (as can water). A 4 gram dose of pure nitrites would likely kill a grown man, but that is equal to between 6000 and 10,000 servings of cured meats in one sitting. Even I don’t get that hungry. If you drink too much water, that can kill you too.
A fear was raised in the 70’s or 80’s regarding carcinogenic compounds produced when cooking meats containing nitrites above 300 degrees. It can happen but the harmful compounds present can be measured in the parts per billion and are eliminated by the addition of vitamin C and other adjuncts in modern products.
The bottom line is, DON’T FEAR NITRATES OR NITRITES!!! They are your friends in this process!