Oxidation processes are responsible for reduction of the sensory and nutritional quality of meat and meat products, thus affecting consumer acceptance. The use of sodium nitrite in meat processing is an important factor limiting these changes. Therefore, eliminating this substance from the recipe of meat products to increase their nutritional value is not an easy challenge. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of sodium nitrite reduction on the lipid oxidation (peroxide value, thiobarbituric acid reactive substances), and color parameters (CIE L*a*b*, total heme pigment and heme iron, nitrosylmyoglobin) in cooked meat products during 15 days of vacuum storage. The antioxidant properties of products and isolated peptides (2,2-azino-bis-3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid (ABTS•), 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging activity, ferric-reducing antioxidant power) were also evaluated. Experimental material included four different sample groups of cooked meat products produced with various percentages of sodium nitrite (0, 50, 100, and 150 mg kg−1
). It was shown that the sodium nitrite dose had no statistically significant effect on lightness (L*) and redness (a*) values, as well as nitrosylmyoglobin content. Along with decreasing the share of sodium nitrite in the samples, the thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) value increased from 0.43 mg kg−1
for samples with 150 mg kg−1
at day 0 to 3.14 mg kg−1
for samples without nitrite at day 15. The total ABTS scavenging capacity of the cooked meat samples was in the range 2.48 to 4.31 eqv. mM Trolox per g of product throughout the entire storage period. During storage, the ferric-reducing antioxidant power of samples with nitrite increased from 0.25 to 0.38 eqv. mg/mL ascorbic acid per g of product. In conclusion, reduction of nitrite to the level of 50 mg kg−1
seemed to be comparable with the traditional use of nitrite in meat products in terms of the physicochemical properties and properties related to lipid oxidation, as well as total antioxidant capacity and peptide antioxidant capacity.
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