Nitrite-free bacon set for UK launch

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Naked Bacon will be available in UK supermarkets from January 10
Naked Bacon will be available in UK supermarkets from January 10

Related tags Food Flavor Meat Uk European food safety authority

A bacon product free of cancer-causing nitrites is to launch in the UK following a £14M investment by Northern Irish meat processor Finnebrogue.

Completely free of nitrites, preservatives, E numbers and allergens, Naked Bacon will be available in supermarkets from January 10.

Finnebrogue worked with Spanish flavourings firm Prosur to develop a way of flavouring traditional British bacon without nitrites – something it claimed had never been achieved before.

The natural flavour is produced from natural Mediterranean fruit and spice extracts, following a decade’s worth of research and development.

The flavour is currently being used in continental-style hams in the EU, but this will be the first time the technology has been applied to British bacon and available to UK consumers, according to Finnebrogue.

In addition to Naked Bacon, Finnebrogue will also be bringing Naked Ham to market on January 15. Furthermore, it is producing nitrite-free own-label bacon for Marks & Spencer, which will go on sale this month.

Travelling the world

Finnebrogue chairman Denis Lynn claimed he had travelled the world to find a way to make bacon without nitrite, “and up to now we’d never made a single rasher of bacon because we couldn’t work out how to do it”​.

“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,” ​he explained.

“Our Naked Bacon is not only safer than any other bacon on the market, it also tops the charts in blind taste tests. This really is the biggest revolution to the British breakfast for a generation.”

The product has received the support of Professor Chris Elliott, who ran the government’s investigation into the 2013 horsemeat scandal.

Elliott, who now chairs the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, 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.

“To have a bacon produced naturally, that doesn’t require such chemicals to be added or formed during processing, is a very welcome development.”

Finnebrogue’s innovation won further backing from Neil Parish MP, the chairman of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) select committee.

Characteristic pink colour

The purpose of adding nitrites is to give cured meat its characteristic pink colour, texture, some flavour and also to help as a preservative.

While Finnebrogue claimed its technology to be a first, nitrate-free bacon has been available in the UK for a number of years.

Emmett’s, based in Peasenhall, Suffolk, said its 100% Blythburgh Free Range dry-cured pork has been free of nitrates, allergens, water and E numbers since 2012.

O’Doherty’s Fine Meats in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, meanwhile, launched its own nitrite-free bacon in 2000 following a five-year development process.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said bacon cured with nitrites is as dangerous as asbestos and smoking, as nitrites produce carcinogenic nitrosamines when ingested.

It warned that eating two rashers of nitrite-cured bacon a day increased the risk of contracting bowel cancer by 18%.

However, in light of the WHO work, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinion published in June last year concluded that current safety levels for sources of nitrites in diet and not just bacon, were “sufficiently protective for consumers”​.

Andrew Kuyk, director general of the Provision Trade Federation, said his organisation’s view on any risk associated with nitrites in bacon was in-line with the ESFA opinion.

He said: “We are aware of products that aim to produce the effect of ‘curing’ bacon (essential to protect against risks such as Clostridium botulinum) by using non-traditional methods involving various other additives or natural substances.

“Some of these do not contain any nitrites at all, while others may do so. It is important, therefore, that any such products are properly labelled and tested to ensure that they meet claimed food safety and shelf-life standards.

“That said, any innovations in food technology that can be proven to reduce risk to consumers are to be welcomed.”

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