Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday, 19 September 2011

Full English Breakfast: Prevention or cure?

Some definitions today, courtesy of Wikipedia: first of all, 'bacon':

Bacon is a cured meat prepared from a pig.

Right, that's got that one cleared up; now, in case you were wondering,

Curing refers to various food preservation and flavoring processes, especially of meat or fish, by the addition of a combination of salt, nitrates, nitrite or sugar.

That being so, precisely how are manufacturers supposed to reduce by a quarter the amount of salt contained in bacon?

The salt isn't there for decoration, or as part of an evil plan to assassinate the pork-eating sector of the population (although I can think of some extremists who might appreciate such a purpose) but as a preservative.

Take out the salt, and bacon surely becomes something closer to short-coded, vacuum-packed pork. As Wikipedia explains,

Table salt (sodium chloride) is the primary ingredient used in meat curing. Removal of water and addition of salt to meat creates a solute-rich environment where osmotic pressure draws water out of microorganisms, retarding their growth. Doing this requires a concentration of salt of nearly 20%.

In addition, salt causes the soluble meat proteins to come to the surface of the meat particles within sausages. These proteins coagulate when the sausage is heated, helping to hold the sausage together. Finally, salt slows the oxidation process, effectively preventing the meat from going rancid.

Sounds pretty conclusive to me, but that hasn't stopped 62 retailers, including major chains, signing up to the Government's targets of 1.13g of salt per 100g for sausages and 2.88g for bacon.

Once upon a time, the Full English Breakfast (can we still call it that?) was under fire for the artery-clogging cholesterol it inflicted on the unsuspecting consumer; these days the focus has shifted to the salt content. Whatever the reason, it's been a sustained attack reminiscent of the Puritans' 17th-century assault on maypoles, festivals and dancing.

As it happens, I don't eat meat - my idea of a good breakfast is a bowl of muesli or a croissant - but that doesn't stop me being angry at the way the Government is interfering with the contents of its citizens' breakfast plates .

I may not partake of your breakfast, but I will defend to the hilt your right to eat it.


  1. Damn - I was getting peckish and now you mention bacon, I'm nipping round to the shop to pick up same.

  2. Oh dear - I suppose kippers are next.

  3. Sorry about that, JH; bon appetit!

    AKH: and porridge too - at least the way my Highland relatives like it; none of our fancy Sassenach ways for them!