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Co-op cuts nitrite levels by 60% on all its bacon lines

27th Jan 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The Co-op is reducing the amount of nitrites used in its own-label British bacon range by 60% in a significant move for the retailer. 

Coop bacon outdoorsIn what the Co-op said was a first for major UK retailers, levels of the preservative used to cure bacon will be more than halved in 24 fresh, British Co-op lines across all its ranges. This includes its premium tier, back and streaky bacon, medallions and bacon chops, as well as lardons.

The retailer, which has closely with pork supplier Tulip on the initiative, said this would come at no additional cost to consumers. The reduced nitrite bacon will be launched in stores with 11 core lines this month, followed by 13 premium lines later the year.

The move is a response to consumer concerns over the use of nitrites. A World Health Organisation-sponsored study in 2015 linked the consumption of nitrite-cured processed meats to increased incidence of cancer, particularly bowel cancer.

The Co-op explained that without the use of nitrites to cure bacon, it would simply be classified as salty pork. Nitrites are required for preservation and to produce the typical characteristics of flavour, taste and colour of bacon, it said.

Breige Donaghy, director of delicious food at Co-op, said: “We’ve listened to what our shoppers want and followed guidance from leading experts in the industry to address the concerns around the amount of nitrites that are required to create cured meats, such as bacon.

“By working closely with our supplier, Tulip, we’ve been able to reduce the amount of nitrites by 60% without compromising preservation and still delivering a great quality product. We will continue to listen to our customers and stay committed to making the highest quality products across Co-op’s total own brand ranges.”

Zoe Bruce, customer director at Tulip, said: “Putting the customer first, as ever, Co-op will be the only UK major retailer to offer a lower nitrite range across its entire own brand bacon category, rather than selling a niche ‘nitrite-free’ product which is not accessible to all and sold at a much higher premium.”

She stressed that removing nitrites completely would not produce the quality of bacon customers are used to. “With this in mind, we’ve worked with Co-op to reduce nitrites in its bacon products to a level where the typical characteristics of bacon are still maintained. There is no impact to preservation, texture or appearance and most importantly it still tastes great,” she added.

In July 2018, Co-op announced that all of its own-brand fresh pork, bacon, sausage, gammon and ham will be sourced from 100% outdoor-bred pigs on RSPCA Assured farms.

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