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U.K. firm touts bacon breakthrough

Recipe uses fruit, spice extracts in place of cancer-linked nitrites

by Melody M. Bomgardner
January 8, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 2

Credit: Shutterstock
Bacon photo.
Credit: Shutterstock

There’s good news for people whose New Year’s resolution is to eat more bacon. This week, the British sausage maker Finnebrogue will introduce bacon rashers made without added nitrites, which have been linked to cancer.

The new English breakfast component will be available only to shoppers in the U.K., who consume, on average, more than 3 kg of bacon per year. Finnebrogue says its Naked Bacon is made with natural fruit and spice extracts.

The firm spent 10 years and $19 million to develop the recipe with the Spanish food ingredients firm Prosur. It claims that the product has beaten the competition in taste tests.

Traditionally, bacon is made in a curing process that uses nitrites or nitrates to preserve it and give it a distinctive flavor, texture, and pink color. During cooking, the additive reacts with secondary amines in the meat to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. The World Health Organization classifies processed meat as carcinogenic because studies show it increases the risk of colorectal cancer when eaten routinely.

Some U.S. brands of so-called natural or uncured bacon rely on natural sources of nitrates such as celery juice or spinach extract, which still form nitrosamines. But that practice is banned in the European Union, Finnebrogue points out. Unlike the U.S. bacon, Finnebrogue’s is labeled as “made without nitrites.”

“To have a bacon produced naturally, that doesn’t require such chemicals to be added or formed during processing, is a very welcome development,” says Chris Elliott, chair of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast.


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