Meat processors 'go natural' for product preservatives

By Lorraine Mullaney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Antioxidant

The retailer-driven trend for clean-label foods has hit finished meat products, according to a major ingredients distributor.

Speaking at Leatherhead Food Research's New and natural event in London, Jon Arzberger, product manager for Azelis Food & Health, reported a strong growth in interest in natural preservatives for meat and savoury applications such as sausages and meatballs.

"A lot of the preservatives used in meat do tend to have fairly long and chemical-sounding names and therefore shifting to a natural and clean-label alternative can make quite a difference to labelling,"​ he explained. "Another reason for looking to move away from more traditional preservatives is to remove allergens such as sodium sulphite from a formulation, or a production site."

He said a new generation of natural preservatives was starting to enter the market, based on blends of herbs, fruit and vegetable extracts. But it was a challenge to prove the efficacy of new ingredients used for their preservative effect. Also, any new ingredients shouldn't impact on the flavour of the finished product not only through any flavour inherent in the extracts, but also through the removal of the incumbent preservation system.

"The question of acceptability of new preservative ingredients in meat products is a tricky one," ​Arzberger said. "Historically, there were questions over the use of rosemary extract and how to declare this on pack. Ultimately, this resulted in rosemary extract being added to the list of permitted additives and being assigned an E number.

"In terms of the efficacy of rosemary extracts, they are very good antioxidants and can really help reduce rancidity and off flavours. Frequently, though, there can be issues with gradual discolouration of products over life and we have heard anecdotal evidence that rosemary extracts perform well up to a point but that they don't necessarily provide the full benefit of traditional systems."

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