Yes, bacon really is killing us

There is a lot of “nitrate-free bacon” on the market…it’s made with nitrates taken from celery extract, which may be natural, but produces exactly the same N-nitroso compounds in the meat. Under EU regulation, this bacon would not be allowed to be labelled “nitrate-free”.

“It’s the worst con I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” says Denis Lynn, the chair of Finnebrogue Artisan, a Northern Irish company that makes sausages for many UK supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer. For years, Lynn had been hoping to diversify into bacon and ham but, he says, “I wasn’t going to do it until we found a way to do it without nitrates.”

When Lynn heard about a new process, developed in Spain, for making perfectly pink, nitrate-free bacon, he assumed it was another blind alley. In 2009, Juan de Dios Hernandez Canovas, a food scientist and the head of the food tech company Prosur, found that if he added certain fruit extracts to fresh pork, it stayed pink for a surprisingly long time.

In January 2018, Finnebrogue used this technology to launch genuinely nitrate-free bacon and ham in the UK. It is sold in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose as “Naked Bacon” and “Naked Ham”, and in M&S as “made without nitrites”. Kirsty Adams, who oversaw its launch at M&S, explains that “it’s not really cured”. It’s more like a fresh salted pork injected with a fruit and vegetable extract, and is more perishable than an old-fashioned flitch of bacon – but that doesn’t matter, given that it is kept in a fridge. Because it is quick to produce, this is much more “economically viable” to make than some of the other nitrate-free options, such as slow-cured Parma ham. The bacon currently sells in Waitrose for £3 a pack, which is not the cheapest, but not prohibitive either.

I tried some of the Finnebrogue bacon from M&S. The back bacon tasted pleasant and mild, with a slight fruitiness…

To read The Guardian’s article in full, click here.