UK ham and bacon processors test nitrate replacer

Major ham and bacon processors are trialling a natural ingredient made from Mediterranean fruits and spices designed to replace nitrites and nitrates, which have been linked with cancer.

The ingredient is distributed by Scobie & Junor and produced by Prosur, a Spanish company based in Murcia. It is already used elsewhere in the world by companies such as US-based Whole Foods.

Scobie & Junor claims its benefits include natural flavour and aromas, improved food safety, longer shelf-life, no hidden nitrates, the ability to maintain clean label statements on packs.

It is a pale red powder, which can be injected into cooked meats or can be applied in dried meat products or in meat emulsions in products such as sausages, mortadella, pate, pepperoni. It is high in natural antioxidants.

Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate are used to extend the shelf-life of certain processed meat products and also give cured meats their colour and taste. However, they are converted into nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic, upon contact with stomach acid.

Scobie & Junors comments follow the airing of BBC1s The Truth About Meat documentary, which referenced research being undertaken to replace nitrates in processed meat with green tea extracts. The study could achieve a 50% reduction in nitrates.

However, the East Kilbride-based ingredient supplier said the product it distributes was already out on the market and had been tested, approved and backed by numerous scientists. It had already attracted the interest of several big meat processors and a Scobie & Junor spokeswoman said it hoped it would be in commercial use within the next couple of months.

She added: There are other products on the market, which use celery, which itself is naturally high in nitrites and nitrates. While they will clean up your ingredient declaration when tested for the presence of nitrites and nitrates, they will still test positive in finished product where as ours wont. Celery of course also an allergen.

While nitrites and nitrates are used in the UK in the processing of cured hams and bacon, links with UK sausage manufacture are spurious, as the vast majority of UK sausages are made without these ingredients.

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