Aisle Spy

Will nitrite-free bacon be a boon for British breakfasts?

A newly developed, natural flavouring means cancer-causing chemicals have been removed from consumption.

3 January 2018

Naked Bacon is about to hit supermarket shelves, but there’s no need to blush or avert your eyes. Developed by Northern Irish food manufacturer Finnebrogue, the bacon is said to be free of nitrites, preservatives, E numbers and allergens.

This has come at a hefty investment. Finnebrogue has spent £14 million and teamed up with Spanish company Prosur to replace nitrites with a natural flavour that is produced from Mediterranean fruit and spice extracts.

Despite the costly development process, it might have been money well spent. Every year Brits eat 159m kilos of bacon, which is worth almost £1bn in retail sales. So what exactly is this bacon breakthrough?

Saving people’s bacon

It’s no secret that processed meat is bad, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring it as carcinogenic in 2015. The WHO warned that bacon containing nitrites is as dangerous as asbestos and smoking, with two rashers of bacon a day increasing the risk of contracting bowel cancer by 18%.

Nitrites give cured meat its characteristic pink colour, texture, some flavour and also help as a preservative. Finnebrogue, which currently supplies sausage and venison to UK supermarkets, said the new natural flavouring being used in Naked Bacon has a similar effect, but not the same health risks.

It’s been a long time coming for Denis Lynn, Finnebrogue chairman, who has been searching for an answer to nitrite-free bacon for 10 years.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Supermarket sell

While farmers and butchers have been offering nitrite-free bacon in recent years, Finnebrogue believes its product is the first to look and taste like traditional bacon and maintain a similar shelf life.

Naked Bacon will launch in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco from January 10 and in Morrisons in April.

Finnebrogue is also producing nitrite-free bacon for Marks and Spencer, who will be packaging the product under its own brand label.

Kirsty Adams, Marks and Spencer product developer, said customers are increasingly looking for healthier options.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

And speaking of cooked hams, Finnebrogue will be launching Naked Ham into Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco on January 15.

After all, it’s not rude to go nude when the bare-faced health benefits are there for all to see…

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