France is set to reduce the use of nitrites in food after the national health agency confirmed they increase the risk of cancer.

Full French the ban had been feared by processed meat manufacturers who use nitrites in products such as ham and sausages.

A review by ANSES confirmed a 2018 World Health Organization report linking nitrates and nitrites ingested through processed meat and colorectal cancer.

Both substances are also suspected of being linked to other cancers such as ovarian, kidney, pancreas and breast, ANSES said.

The agency advised minimizing nitrates and nitrites.

Nitrate is used as a fertilizer in agriculture while nitrite is widely used in processed meats to extend their shelf life and give boiled ham its pink color.

The government said a total ban was not justified after ANSES said that, based on the consumption habits of the French, 99% of the population did not exceed the authorized daily doses for all exposures to nitrites or nitrates.

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But officials said a plan would be presented to parliament in the fall aimed at reducing or eliminating them where possible.

The move follows a French parliament bill in February to gradually reduce the use of nitrites in charcuterie which called on the government to act on the results of the ANSES review.

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