Nitrite-free rasher predicted to ‘revolutionise full Irish breakfast’

Northern Ireland-based company uses fruit and spice extracts in bacon-curing process

An Irish food-processing company has produced what it claims to be the first rasher in Ireland without nitrite preservatives, which have been linked to colon cancer.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified bacon cured with nitrites as as dangerous as asbestos and smoking, as nitrites produce carcinogenic nitrosamines when ingested.

Naked Bacon is the first mass-produced rasher to be made without the cancer-causing chemical. It is being marketed by Finnebrogue Artisan in Northern Ireland with the message that "cancer risk in the full Irish breakfast has been slashed".

The WHO has estimated that 34,000 bowel and colon cancer deaths per year worldwide are directly attributable to diets high in processed meats – and warned eating two rashers of nitrite-cured bacon per day increases relative risk of contracting bowel cancer by 18 per cent.


The natural flavour produced from Mediterranean fruit and spice extracts emerged following 10 years of research and development

The bacon product is being sold in Tesco stores in the State from today, with other supermarkets due to introduce the product over coming months.

Natural extracts

Its development has been welcomed by a leading food scientist. Prof Chris Elliott, who chairs the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University Belfast, said: "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.”

Finnebrogue, based in Downpatrick, worked with a Spanish chemist to develop a new way of flavouring bacon without nitrites. The technology has been used to make continental-style hams in France for over a year but this is the first time it has been made available to Irish consumers.

The natural flavour produced from Mediterranean fruit and spice extracts emerged following 10 years of research and development.

The purpose of adding nitrites is to give cured meat its characteristic pink colour, texture, some flavour and also to help as a preservative in prolonging shelf life.

Under pressure from MEPs, the European Commission last month said it would move to lower the levels at which nitrites are allowed to be added to meat.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times