A New Kind Of Bacon Won't Give You Cancer, Meaning Life Is Still Good

Bacon is processed using nitrates and nitrites, which the World Health Organization says could enhance chemicals thought to cause cancer. Brian Ach/Getty Images for New York Magazine

You may not know it, but your favorite breakfast item could increase cancer risk. Bacon is processed using nitrites and nitrates, which could enhance chemicals thought to cause cancer in the meat, according to the World Health Organization.

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But now, a British company is making nitrite-free bacon, reported The Telegraph. The company, Finnebrogue, teamed up with chemists from Spain to make Naked Bacon, the first nitrite-free offering. According to the paper, the product will be available in the United Kingdom in the beginning of the new year.

Professor Chris Elliott, chair of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University Belfast, explained that the new innovation proved bacon didn't need to be a dangerous food in a company statement.

"Many forms of processed foods have come under the spotlight over recent years for their unhealthy attributes. Processed red meat in particular has been a focal point," he said.

"Finnebrogue have used a combination of innovation and natural fruit and spice extracts to come up with a bacon that is made without the need for added nitrites. Nitro containing compounds, used in the manufacture of traditional bacons, are known to cause the formation of chemicals that have negative health impacts," Elliott said.

Stateside, there is yet to be a nitrate or nitrite-free bacon. But what exactly are these possibly harmful ingredients? Nitrites and nitrates are preservatives that help keep bacteria out of processed meats, and also enhances their pink coloring, reported LiveScience. They also can be found naturally in healthy foods, and the publication writes that 80 percent of nitrites actually come from very common vegetables, including spinach and lettuce.

As the article explains, nitrites can form possibly cancer-causing molecules called nitrosamines in certain conditions. In order to stop this, the U.S. Department of Agriculture set a limit of 200 parts sodium nitrite preservatives per million parts of meat, according to LiveScience. And there are other ingredients that can be added that are thought to stop the nitrosamines from forming, particularly ascorbic acid.

The World Health Organization said that eating 50 grams of processed meat a day can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18 percent, reported the BBC. And studies have shown that eating a lot of meat is linked to a higher risk of cancer.

While this new bacon isn't available worldwide, some food manufacturers use natural nitrates from plants, which have vitamin C to helps counteract the production of nitrosamines, reported Time.