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Looking for alternative ways to preserve processed meat products

Looking for alternative ways to preserve processed meat products

Processed meats encompass a variety of products, including deli meats, bacon, sausages and other cured meats.

Nitrites and nitrates (E 249-252) are typically added to these products because they help preserve the meat by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria like Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism and can make people sick. They also give the meat its distinctive red colour and help maintain its flavour.

The maximum levels at which nitrates and nitrites may be used, as well as the specific foods they can be used in, are directed by Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 of the European Union but permitted levels are being reduced. This means that food scientists are looking for alternative ways to preserve processed meat products without using nitrites or by using them in smaller amounts, while still maintaining the safety and quality of the food.

This is the aim of the Teagasc-coordinated ‘No-2-Nitrates’ project. Using the facilities and meat quality and safety expertise at Teagasc Ashtown, researchers are developing novel meat products that have reduced levels or are free-from nitrates and nitrites. This includes testing their microbial safety and shelf life, as well as their sensory qualities such as appearance, colour, aroma, taste, flavour, texture and aftertaste. The aim is to produce new meat products without compromising on flavour, safety or quality.

Find out more about working ongoing as part of the Teagasc Food Research Programme here.