Bacon which is free from nitrites, preservatives, E numbers and all allergens is coming to a British supermarket near you.
The product, called Naked Bacon, has been developed by Northern Irish food manufacturer Finnebrogue and has been hailed by experts as a “very welcome development”.
Many types of processed meat such as bacon and sausages contain nitrites and nitrates, which are salts from chemical or natural sources added as a preservative, an anti-microbial agent and a colour fixative.
The World Health Organisation concluded in 2015 that processed meat, including bacon, is carcinogenic and as dangerous as asbestos and smoking.
It said one possible reason was that nitrites in the body can form carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines that can damage DNA.
It have estimated that 34,000 bowel and colon cancer deaths per year worldwide are directly attributable to diets high in processed meats – and warned that eating two rashers of nitrite cured bacon per day increases the risk of contracting bowel cancer by 18%.
Finnebrogue said it worked with a Spanish chemist to develop the new flavouring from natural Mediterranean fruit and spice extracts and apply it to British bacon for UK consumers for the first time.
A growing number of farmers and butchers have started to offer nitrate and nitrite-free bacon over recent years, but Finnebrogue believes its product is the first to look and taste like traditional bacon and maintain a similar shelf life.
Professor Chris Elliott, who led the inquiry into the horsemeat scandal and 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.
“Finnebrogue have used a combination of innovation and natural fruit and spice extracts to come up with a bacon that is made without the need for added nitrites. 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, chairman of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said: “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. UK firms like Finnebrogue are leading the way in producing some of the best food anywhere in the world.”
Finnebrogue chairman Denis Lynn said: “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. This really is the biggest revolution to the British breakfast for a generation.”
Naked Bacon will launch in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco from January 10, while Naked Ham launches on January 15 using the same flavouring process.
Finnebrogue is also producing nitrite-free bacon for Marks & Spencer, who will be packaging it under its own-brand label and selling it in early January.
M&S product developer Kirsty Adams 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.”
UK consumers eat 159 million kilograms (350.5 million lbs) of bacon every year to a retail value of £916 million, according to recent Kantar Worldpanel figures.