World’s first bacon without nitrites

A meat processor in Northern Ireland has developed what is claimed to be the world’s first bacon that is free from nitrites and that ‘cuts the cancer risk of bacon'.
calendar icon 4 January 2018
clock icon 4 minute read

Branded as ‘Naked Bacon’ the new product has been developed by Finnebrogue Artisan from Downpatrick in County Down. The company says it has worked with Spanish chemists who have managed to produce bacon that does not include nitrites from vegetables or curing agents therefore making the traditional morning breakfast ingredient that bit healthier.

Following five years of research by Finnebrogue, the new bacon is the first to be completely free from nitrites, preservatives, E numbers and all allergens. Following on from this successful development of nitrite free bacon, Finnebrogue will shortly launch ham and pork sausages also free from nitrites.

The purpose of adding nitrites is to give cured meat its characteristic pink colour, texture, some flavour and also to help as a preservative. The new natural flavouring being used is produced from natural Mediterranean fruit and spice extracts. And crucially, in independent blind taste tests, consumers said it was as good or better than traditionally cured meat. The flavour is currently being used in continental style hams in the European Union, but this will be the first time the technology has been applied to British bacon and available to UK consumers.

Finnebrogue founder and chairman, Denis Lynn, said:

I’ve been all over the world to figure out a way to make bacon without nitrites, and up to now we’d never made a single rasher of bacon because we couldn’t work out how to do it.

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

Finnebrogue is a longstanding supplier of sausages and other meat products to M&S.

Kirsty Adams of Marks and Spencer, which will be launching Naked Bacon on January 10, said:

We know that our customers care about their health and are increasingly looking for healthier options for themselves and their families.

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.

The nitrite free bacon has been welcomed by Professor Chris Elliott of the Institute of Global Food Security at Queen’s University in Belfast. He 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. Nitro containing compounds, used in the manufacture of traditional bacons, are known to cause the formation of chemicals that have negative health impacts.

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

Neil Parish MP, the chairman of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, added:

Making bacon without nitrites, and reducing the risk in the famous full English breakfast, is a remarkable feat of food technology and a brilliant British success story.

This is further evidence that the British food industry is going from strength to strength.

Every year Britons eat 159 million kg of bacon, worth almost £1 billion in retail sales. The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently warns that bacon cured with nitrites is as dangerous as asbestos and smoking, because the chemicals produce carcinogenic nitrosamines when ingested. They have estimated that around 34,000 bowel and colon cancer deaths each year are directly attributable to diets which are high in processed meat. The WHO has also calculated that eating two rashers of nitrite–cured bacon per day increases the risk of contracting bowel cancer by 18 per cent.

Available from shops and supermarkets this month the new Naked unsmoked bacon retails at £2.99 (€3.38, $4.06) for a 200g pack.

As reported by Chris Mccullough

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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