Honesty is the Best Policy: The Truth Behind “Uncured” Labeling

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Over the past decade, bacon has seen a surge in popularity. Some call it “Bacon Mania.”

Once vilified in the health-conscious 1980s as an unhealthy indulgence, bacon is now celebrated in American culture.

Taking to heart that “everything is better with bacon,” bacon-lovers pushed “Bacon Mania” to new levels with the creation of bacon-flavored mayonnaise, alcohol and chocolate. Multiple cities around the country even hold annual Baconfest celebrations.

Bacon sales have jumped 27 percent in the past seven years from $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion, according to market research firm IRI. That growth appears to be continuing, with sales increasing 3.5 percent between July 2016 and July 2017, according to IRI.

Bacon is not just a breakfast food anymore, either. A growing number of restaurants, most notably McDonald’s, are embracing the concept of all-day breakfast.

Bacon’s strongest growth, though, has been seen on dinner menus.

Citing research firm Datassential, The National Provisioner’s 2017 State of Bacon report states bacon penetration at dinner has increased by 6 percent during the past year and 8 percent compared with four years ago.

Bacon’s lunch menu penetration is up 6 percent in the past four years, according to Datassential.

Cancer Concerns

As with any rising star in American culture, though, bacon has been increasingly scrutinized.

In 2015, the bacon industry was rocked by the World Health Organization’s findings that curing bacon with nitrites or nitrates can lead to the formation of potentially cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines.

Just 50 grams, or two slices, of bacon per day can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, according to the WHO report.

This announcement was based on more than just a handful of studies.

Before presenting their conclusion to the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer formed a working group of 22 scientists from 10 countries to review more than 800 studies linking nitrites to colon cancer.

Honesty and Transparency in “Uncured” Labeling

In response to consumers’ demands for nitrate-free bacon, some meat processors have started curing their bacon with celery juice or even cherry juice powder.

Major bacon brands now label their high-end bacon products as uncured, with the labeling requirement disclaimer added, “no nitrates or nitrites are added, except for those naturally occurring nitrates and nitrites in celery powder.”

These uncured products give the appearance of being more natural than traditional curing processes, but they actually contain just as much sodium nitrate as the other cured bacon brands and sometimes even more.

As far back as 2007, meat science experts Dr. James Bacus and Dr. Joseph Sebranek wrote that a more appropriate regulatory term for meats cured with celery juice and other nitrites would be “naturally cured.”

Bacus and Sebranek argued that, by changing the label requirements, consumers would no longer be deceived by labels claiming these products are “uncured” and that “no nitrates or nitrites (are) added.”

The confusing labeling practices of uncured bacon products have been exposed in Time magazine and other major media outlets. It’s only a matter of time before consumers start to push back on our industry more.

Social media users have the power to share information, organize to take collective action, and more recently, expose and topple established empires. It’s only a matter of time before consumers start to demand honest labeling for their bacon.

Even if not required by the government, studies show that consumers are more likely to develop brand loyalty with a company that is honest and transparent about their ingredients.

Two-thirds of customers believe the responsibility for providing information about food should come from the brand or manufacturer, according to a Label Insight study conducted in 2016.

In that same study, 94 percent of consumers said, “It is important to buy from transparent brands and manufacturers.”

A More Transparent Solution Emerges

As awareness spreads about nitrates in bacon, it’s inevitable that American consumers will start demanding bacon processed without concentrated nitrites.

Irish food manufacturer Finnebrogue, for example, was praised in The Guardian and Daily Mail when its nitrite-free Naked Bacon hit U.K. shelves in January 2018.

Finnebrogue’s Naked Bacon is processed with Prosur T-10, a blend of extracts from Mediterranean fruits and spices that has proven antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Prosur T-10 has been tested by private labs and universities to have less than 1-4 parts per million of residual nitrate and nitrite on average. The biggest distinction being that T-10 allows processors to eliminate concentrated nitrite sources such as prague powder and celery juice powder.

To accomplish so much, Prosur, a Spanish company, uses polyphenol and flavonoid antioxidant solutions. These proprietary blends provide pathogen protection, shelf-life, color stabilization, and prevent lipid oxidation. All while still providing great flavor, smell, and appearance.

As more people learn about Finnebrogue and the growing number of bacon brands using Prosur T-10, consumers will vote with their pocketbook to make healthier bacon a reality in their lives, their grocery stores and their restaurants.

The Future is Honest, Nitrite-Free Bacon

Statistics show consumers are already taking notice of clean-label products using Prosur T-10.

“Nitrate-free” bacon saw 14.1 percent volume growth between March 2016 and March 2017, according to The National Provisioner’s 2017 State of Bacon report, citing Nielsen Product Insider.

These “nitrate-free” products, which mislead paying customers, have not seen the same level of growth as “clean-label” bacon products. Clean-label bacon products have increased 25.3 percent in that same time period, according to Nielsen Product Insider.

The meat industry, however, has been slow to adjust to consumer demands. Nitrite-free bacon accounts for 20 percent of all bacon items. Clean-label bacon products, which has seen twice as much growth in the past year, makes up only 9 percent of bacon products on the market, according to Nielsen Product Insider.

While some meat processors may be hesitant to change their habits, it’s important to consider the demands of their paying customers.

Forty percent of consumers said they would switch their brand of preference in favor of more ingredient transparency, according to a 2016 Label Insight Study. Also in that study, 73 percent of consumers said they would be willing to pay more for a brand with complete transparency.
Consumers increasingly want a nitrite-free product marketed with a clean, honest label. Prosur T-10 can help companies create that product.

As awareness about nitrites and inaccurate labeling spreads, consumers will demand a shift in the bacon industry in favor of truthful labeling.

It’s time to think about the transparency of uncured labeling.

You Can Have Your Meat and Eat It Too!

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Or should I say,

“You Can Have Your Meat and Your Health Too!”?

Recently, there have been studies, articles and now even lawsuits surrounding processed meats and the health concerns related to colon cancer. Below are some of the relevant articles. Surely, you have seen or heard of them or perhaps even studied the subject yourself.

While the issue may seem debatable, it is not. There are literally hundreds of studies on the subject of colon cancer showing correlation to processed meats performed over several decades. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer formed a working group comprised of 22 scientists from ten countries and they studied over 800 studies before presenting their conclusion to the World Health Organization(1).

While some may still debate the issue as true or false even in the face of a tremendous amount of research, there is a real solution to eliminating concentrated nitrites in our processed meats once and for all.

The primary concern with processed meat is high concentrations of nitrite (from sodium nitrite OR from celery juice powder) which leads to the formation of potentially cancer-causing (carcinogenic) chemicals such as N-nitroso-compounds (NOC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. NOCs coupled with high temperature cooking (pan-frying, grilling, barbecuing) can also produce carcinogenic chemicals, including heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) and PAHs. (1)

So, why take the risk?

Processors have used nitrites for hundreds of years for food safety reasons to inhibit microbial growth such as Clostridium botulinum, inhibit lipid oxidation, and of course to give the traditional cured taste and color. Given the risk of spoilage and pathogens along with the pleasant characteristics of cured meats, the benefits outweighed the risks in the past.

Today, many processors use celery juice powder which in plain English is really, natural sodium nitrite. Still, the body (colon) recognizes it as sodium nitrite. These products are sold as “uncured” in the stores according to USDA requirements. In actuality, many of them have higher amounts of residual nitrates/nitrites especially when cherry juice powder (ascorbic acid) is not used to reduce the amount of residual nitrite in the meat through nitrite > nitric oxide > Nitrosyl-hemechrome conversion. Standard cured products use sodium nitrite and sodium erythorbate. Today’s designer “uncured” meats use celery juice powder and sometimes cherry juice powder. Different names, same chemicals.

Is there a solution to this problem?

Absolutely. Prosur is a manufacturer of natural ingredients from fruit, spice, and vegetable extracts for the purposes of yield/texture improvement, pathogen and spoilage protection, and preserving the fresh sensory properties of meats. With Prosur ingredients processors and consumers can truly “have their meat and their health too.”

The Prosur T-10 product line allows processors to make true uncured labeled meats that are not preserved through the effects of high nitrites and chemicals but rather from polyphenol and flavanoid antioxidants from Mediterranean fruits, spices, and vegetable extracts.

Truth in labeling is more important today than ever and consumers are in favor of processors making the switch to clear, honest, and transparent ingredients.

94% of consumers say, “It is important to buy from transparent brands and manufacturers.” (2)

73% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency. (2)

67% of consumers believe the responsibility for providing information about food should come from the brand or manufacturer. (2)

65% of consumers want more information about the way their food is made. (3)

87% of Consumers say it’s okay if a company is not perfect as long as it is honest about its efforts. (4)

*62% of shoppers avoid artificial preservatives and flavors

*61% of shoppers avoid artificial colors

*59% of shoppers avoid antibiotics and hormones

*53% of shoppers avoid artificial sweeteners

**80% of all the shoppers responding to avoiding these ingredients believe these ingredients and chemicals are harmful to themselves and/or family members, citing why they avoid them. (5)

Prosur ingredients can give processors the natural ingredients they need to make healthy and transparent meats for consumers. The natural ingredients are readily available, the demand from consumers is there, and the opportunity to give true-honest-transparent natural meats has never been easier.

For more information on this subject and to get local support for Prosur ingredients:





US Distribution:

Wenda Ingredients, Naperville, IL

844-99-WENDA, sales@wendaingredients.com

1.https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/11/03/report-says-eating-processed-meat-is-carcinogenic-understanding-the-findings/ 2. Label Insight. 2016. The 2016 Label Insight Food Revolution Study. Label Insight, Chicago. Labelinsight.com

3.Sullivan Higdon & Sink. 2016. Evolving Trust in the Food Industry. Sullivan Higdon & Sink FoodThink, Wichita, Kan. Wehatesheep.com

4.Cone Communications. 2015. Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study. Cone Communications, Boston. Conecomm.com.

5.Nielsen. 2016. What’s in our Food and on Our Mind. Nielsen, New York. nielsen.com