EU changes water content in bacon

Last-minute changes to EU food rules could see bacon producers landed with extra costs to ensure they can continue to call their product 'bacon'.

The last-minute change to the Food Information Regulations has amended a section whereby bacon producers were allowed a 10% water threshold in line with UK Meat Products Regulations. By lowering this to 5%, bacon, which contains more than 5% water, can no longer be sold as ‘bacon’, but must be labelled ‘bacon with added water’.

Very little bacon produced in the UK contains less than 5% water, as it is widely injected into the meat to help the distribution of curing salts.

The FSA’s UK Meat Labelling guidelines state that: “An allowance of 10% added water for bacon is permitted as 10% is accepted as the cut-off minimum amount of water that is needed to distribute curing salts efficiently in the pork in a wet-cure process, which is the main method of bacon manufacture.”

Producers who want to continue to call their product ‘bacon’ will have to adapt their production methods at a potential cost thousands of pounds.

Clare Cheney, director general of the Provision Trade Federation (PTF) told MTJ’s sister publication Food Manufacture that if water levels were cut to 5% and below, there was a risk the salt would exceed the solutions saturation point and not dissolve. She warned manufacturers might have to return to old-fashioned ‘wet-curing’ techniques, which could be costly and take longer, as well as risking less even distribution of curing salts.

She said that the amendment had caught processors unaware, as there had been no prior discussion about the change.