Nitrites have been added to cured meat products to prevent botulism, preserve shelf-life and add color and flavor. Nitrites also are effective in reducing other foodborne pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes.
But despite its food safety and preservation benefits, bacon and other cured meats have been the focus of scientific debate. A 2015 report by the World Health Organization claimed a link between some cancers and consumption of processed meats. Finnebrogue claims its nitrite-free bacon “slashes” the cancer risk from eating bacon. The company supplies sausage and venison to leading supermarkets in the United Kingdom, but so far has avoided producing bacon.
In a statement, Denis Lynn, Finnebrogue chairman, said “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.
“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. 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.
“Our Naked Bacon is not only safer than any other bacon on the market, it also tops the charts in blind taste tests,” Lynn said. “This really is the biggest revolution to the British breakfast for a generation.”
To make the bacon, Finnebrogue partnered with Murcia, Spain-based Prosur to develop the technology behind nitrite-free bacon. Prosur provides food companies with clean-label solutions that include natural plant extracts. “Our processing technology and natural flavoring mean nitrites are no longer required in processed meats,” said Juan de Dios Hernandez Canovas, CEO of Prosur.
The first packets of Naked Bacon landed in supermarkets on Jan. 10, while Finnebrogue’s Naked Ham launched on Jan. 15. Finnebrogue is producing nitrite-free bacon for Marks and Spencer who will be packaging the product in 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 Kirsty Adams, Marks and Spencer product developer. “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 flavor — 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.”