Smoked bacon faces a ban on using 'natural'

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

A rash move? FSA advice on natural smoked bacon is at odds with EC interpretation
A rash move? FSA advice on natural smoked bacon is at odds with EC interpretation

Related tags European commission European union

A row has broken out between the UK’s bacon producers and the European Commission (EC) over proposals contained in the latest draft of EU guidance on labelling of flavourings, which would ban the use of the term ‘natural’ on products traditionally smoked to impart flavour.

The view from Brussels is that given that smoking is a form of processing, there can be no such thing as a ‘naturally smoked product’, even where this is carried out by traditional means. The EC concluded that such an indication would be misleading for consumers across the EU and therefore shouldn’t be allowed.


However, this position is in direct contradiction of advice from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which allows traditional products, such as bacon smoked without chemicals, to be described as natural. The FSA also allows cooking processes such as baking, roasting or blanching and traditional methods of dehydration to be described as natural.

The majority of bacon sold across the UK is smoked traditionally using wood, which is generally perceived as a natural process compared with the addition of chemicals, which are sometimes used to impart a smoky flavour.

The Provision Trade Federation (PTF), which represents bacon producers, is seeking clarification on this apparent discrepancy between the FSA and the EC and will be discussing it at its technical meeting next month (September).

‘Smoke flavourings’

The latest EC guidance states: “The term ‘smoked’ should be included in the denomination of the product when the smoking process is used. When smoke flavourings are used, the description should be ‘smoke flavoured’ or ‘smoked by regenerated smoke’ and the list of ingredients should include the term ‘smoke flavourings’.”

To date, the PTF’s position has been that regenerated smoke should be treated differently to smoke flavourings that are sprayed on or added to the food.

“The meaning of the term natural has been an issue for as long as I can remember,” ​said PTF director general Clare Cheney.

“In this case it seems as though the author of the EU guidelines is applying the description to the final product rather than the process.

“We believe that consumers want to distinguish between whether the smoking is natural or artificial. They already know that a smoked product is not the same as the raw material.”

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1 comment


Posted by Bob Salmon,

What do you expect when the only organisation representing British SMEs to the EC is Friends of the Earth? They are the only UK ones listed on the Commission site out of the 45 total.

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