Makin’ bacon healthy: Nitrite-free version launches in the UK for 2018

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/Handmadepictures
© iStock/Handmadepictures

Related tags: Meat

Nitrite-free bacon that uses Mediterranean fruit and spice extracts to replace the cancer-causing chemicals used in the manufacture of traditional bacons, will be available in supermarkets later this month.

Northern Irish artisan food manufacturer Finnebrogue claims the product, Naked bacon, will be the UK’s only bacon to be free from nitrites, preservatives, E numbers and allergens.

The product is a response to comments made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which stated that the nitrites found in various processed meats were as dangerous as asbestos and smoking.

It led the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to announce back in 2015 that consumption of processed meat was “carcinogenic to humans​.”

Finnebrogue, a sausage and venison supplier, worked with Spanish flavour specialists Prosur to develop a new way of flavouring traditional British bacon.

Whilst the flavour is already used in continental style hams in the European Union, this will be the first time the technology has been applied to British bacon and available to UK consumers, following a €15.8m (£14m) initial investment from Finnebrogue.

Marks and Spencer own brand

As well as Naked Bacon, Finnebrogue will be bringing Naked Ham to market on 15 January 2018.

The first packets of Naked Bacon will be available on 10 January of this year in branches of Marks and Spencer which will be packaging the product under its own brand.

“We know that our customers care about their health and are increasingly looking for healthier options for themselves and their families,”​ said Marks and Spencer’s product developer Kirsty Adams.

“We have worked closely with Finnebrogue throughout their innovation on nitrite-free bacon, to ensure our own brand recipe is a fantastic tasting bacon without compromise on flavour – as our customers would expect.

“We are very excited to be the first to launch an own brand with a back and streaky bacon, and will be looking to follow this up with cooked hams in the very near future.”

Finnebrogue’s chairman, Denis Lynn, commented that the breakthrough was ten years in the making. “For more than a decade I have insisted we not touch bacon until such time as we can make it better and safer – and now we have.

“The problem with bacon is dead simple. Bacon contains nitrites, nitrites produce nitrosamines in your gut and nitrosamines are carcinogenic. Nitrites should not be in food.”

“Our Naked Bacon is not only safer than any other bacon on the market, it also tops the charts in blind taste tests.”

Comparisons to fresh meat

While the exact process and the ingredient product profile are closely guarded, Prosur’s CEO Juan de Dios Hernández, along with the firm’s research, development and innovation team, recently discussed the challenges of preventing nitrosamine formation in bacon.

Writing in the December issue of meat industry magazine Meating Point​, the team compared bacon made using nitrite (150 parts per million (ppm)) with bacon produced using Natpre T-10 CUR RME, the firm’s proprietary blend of natural compounds.

The team estimated the content of nitrites and nitrates of the bacon sample containing Natpre T-10 CUR RME to be similar to those found in fresh meat, which normally contains low levels of nitrate and nitrite, estimated at less than (<) 4–7 milligrams per kilogram (mg/Kg) and < 0.4–0.5 mg/Kg respectively.

“It is possible to produce a baked bacon with a perfect quality and colour without the use of nitrite salts,” the research team concluded.

“The bacon that was treated with Natpre T-10 CUR RME does not contain nitrite before cooking and, more importantly, does not contain carcinogenic nitrosamines after oven cooking.

“Natpre T-10 CUR RME is a 100% natural product that can be labelled as natural flavour on clean labels.”

The product has received the support of Professor Chris Elliott, Institute for Global Food Security’s chair at Queen’s University Belfast, who said “Many forms of processed foods have come under the spotlight over recent years for their unhealthy attributes. Processed red meat in particular has been a focal point.”

Elliot, who was in charge of the UK Government’s investigation into the 2013 horsemeat scandal, added: “To have a bacon produced naturally, that doesn’t require such chemicals to be added or formed during processing, is a very welcome development.”

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