Northern Ireland-based meat producer Finnebrogue is creating 125 jobs through a £17m investment in a new nitrite-free bacon facility.

Located in Downpatrick, the facility will increase the production of the company’s Naked Bacon line that was introduced last year.

Finnebrogue Artisan chairman Denis Lynn said: “It has been known for decades that nitrites used in curing meat can cause cancer. That’s why, despite being the UK’s leading top tier sausage maker, we refused to make a single rasher of bacon until we could figure out a way to make it better and safer.

“We always set out to make food the best it can be, without being bound by the way it has always been done.

“It has been known for decades that nitrites used in curing meat can cause cancer.”

“And so, after much research, we discovered a process that uses fruit and spice extracts to flavour the pork, keep it pink and retain shelf life. We are using this technology in our Naked Bacon and we’ve had a great response from both retailers and consumers.”

Nitrites are added to bacon in order to give the meat its pink colour and texture, as well as act as a preservative.

For developing a nitrite-free flavouring process, Finnebrogue has worked with Spanish chemist Prosur.

The flavour is claimed to have been derived from a mix of Mediterranean fruit and spice extracts.

For this project, Invest NI has offered Finnebrogue more than £1.3m as support towards the capital investment, as well as for the creation of 125 jobs by 2022.

Invest NI business and sector development executive director Brian Dolaghan said: “Northern Ireland’s reputation as a region that produces innovative, quality food has been enhanced by the innovation and development of nitrite-free bacon by Finnebrogue.

“The product has been welcomed by top food scientists as a significant advancement in food safety and has already found a market among health-conscious consumers.”

The Northern Irish company, which also produces and sells The Good Little Company range of healthy sausages, recently opened a vegetarian factory producing innovative, meat-free meal options.