Curing meat without nitrates or nitrites

TechnologyVeľká BritániaTRUK20201002001
A UK food manufacturer is seeking both mature and early stage technology, equipment and ingredients to replace the use of nitrates/nitrites when curing ham. Academia and industry are sought to offer a solution, or develop one further, under a license, manufacturing, research or technical cooperation agreement.
A UK food manufacturer makes amongst others cured, chilled meat. Curing is a traditional preservation process used to impart colour, flavour and texture to some meats, in addition to food safety control against pathogens. The curing process combines several elements (e.g. use of a brine, hanging, tumbling/manipulating, forming and cooking) over a number of days/weeks/months, to produce a variety of tastes and textures in the end products, e.g. a traditional cured, sliced ham. This process also requires the addition of nitrates/nitrites (in the form of the brine), which are injected into the raw meat so as to speed up the curing but also aid with the colouring and food safety. There is now research suggesting that the use of nitrates/nitrites can cause potential health issues, through the formation of potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines. It is for this reason that food processors and retailers are exploring alternative ingredients, e.g. vegetable powders containing natural sources of nitrates, to reduce the impact on the human body. However, replicating the physical appearance, as well as texture and flavour of premium quality meat has been problematic when using alternative ingredients and the chilled environments required for food processing. The company is therefore actively searching for a potential solution to replicate the meat curing process (and subsequent physical appearance/flavour) without the use of added nitrates/nitrites. Such solutions should have quality parity to current premium ham products in the market place and enable one or more of the following: ▪ Retention of fibrous texture of cooked meat ▪ Characteristic pinkish colour and cured flavour ▪ Food safety/shelf-life stability Solutions which can only provide some of the functionalities above would be interesting if a combination with other methods could lead to a replacement/reduction in the use of nitrites in the process. The solutions may come from industry or academia. The type of co-operation will depend on the stage of development. Technical or research co-operation is envisaged where more work is needed. Licensing or manufacturing agreement will suit in case of a rather mature solution.
Type (e.g. company, R&D institution…), field of industry and Role of Partner Sought: 
Type of partner sought: academia and industry. Specific activity of partner sought: food technology. Role of partner sought: to propose a solution and explain its stage of development. It will be acquired under a license or manufacturing agreement, or be developed further under technical or research cooperation agreement.
Technical Specification or Expertise Sought: 
Potential solutions could include those that could be implemented immediately, or require further research and development work, such as: ▪ New ingredients to directly replace the use of nitrates/nitrites ▪ Alternative processes/equipment to replace use of ingredients e.g. tenderising and processing of proteins/muscle tissue ▪ Processes or equipment that provide the same physical benefits of nitrates/nitrites without overprocessing the meat (i.e. requiring further tumbling and reforming after process).
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