Northern Irish sausage and bacon supplier Finnebrogue Artisan has partnered with Leon to introduce its nitrite-free Naked Bacon range across the chain’s estate.
Leon announced the partnership today (27 January). However, it has been selling Finnebrogue’s bacon across its 75 UK restaurants since last month. It claimed it was the first restaurant chain to provide the “healthier” bacon on the high street, and without having to compromise on taste and appearance.
The move was intrinsic to Leon’s mission “to make it easier for everyone to eat well and live well, which has been at the heart of the business since it launched in 2004”, the restaurant said.
“For both emotional and rational reasons I have become intensely focused on saving the human and the environment,” said Leon CEO John Vincent.
“The benefits of removing nitrites from processed meats are that we can reduce the rates of colorectal cancer in the UK by up to 20%, ease the strain on our NHS and help the UK take a lead in making some of the safest food anywhere on the planet,” he added.
“Partnering with Finnebrogue to become the UK’s first restaurants to launch nitrite-free bacon brings our ‘from farms we trust’ principle to life and helps us celebrate the work of our valued suppliers.”
Finnebrogue launched its Naked Bacon brand into supermarkets in 2018 and has since expanded the range to include multiple product lines.
The range replaces the nitrites commonly used to cure bacon and give them their recognisable colour with a Mediterranean fruit and spice extract it claims matches the shelf life of traditionally produced bacon and ham.
Nitrites and their use in processed meats were singled out as a significant cause of cancer in a landmark study by the WHO in 2015. It warned consuming 50g of bacon per day – the equivalent to two rashers – could raise the risk of contracting bowel cancer by 18%.
“When we first launched Naked Bacon, our goal was to kick-start a nitrite-free revolution,” said Finnebrogue chairman Denis Lynn. “Leon becoming the first restaurant chain in the world to go nitrite-free is a huge step on the way to removing these chemicals from all processed meats, wherever they may be.”
Demand for nitrite-free alternatives was “growing at pace as consumers recognise you can have a delicious rasher without them, with no compromise on flavour or appearance”, Lynn added.
The partnership follows a pledge by the Co-op to cut the amount of nitrites used in its own-label bacon range by 60% last month, in partnership with pork giant Tulip.
It comes as Finnebrogue is planning to build a 70,000 sq ft factory and an associated 20,000 sq ft of warehouse space adjacent to its existing plant in Downpatrick in what will be a £19m investment.
The Irish News reported last week that a pre-planning application notice had been submitted by the processor to Newry, Mourne and Down Council.