When Cured Meat Kills

We’ve seen cured meat as a lifesaver – a last-resort hemostatic agent for refractory epistaxis. But, cured meat has a dark side, as well.

In this case report, a father and daughter arrive to the Emergency Departent short of breath, cyanotic, and hypoxic after ingesting “beef jerky”. Poisoned! But how?

This family had prepared their own, homemade beef jerky – and inadvertently oversalted the meat. In this case, the salt – sodium nitrate – resulted in methemoglobinemia. Rather than use 0.05 ounces of sodium nitrate to 5lbs. of food consistent with food preparation guidelines, these folks unwittingly added a full 1 ounce. This twenty-fold overdose resulted in methemoglobin levels >30% in each. Both recovered after treatment with methylene blue.

Other foods previously implicated in inadvertent sodium nitrate poisoning: blood sausage, kosher sausage, and bamboo shoot soup.

“The Beef Jerky Blues: Methemoglobinemia From Home Cured Meat”

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