/ Food & Drink

Do you want to know how much water is in your bacon?

Bacon and eggs

Under new EU rules, which will come into force in three years, we’ll now find bacon with more than 5% added water labelled as ‘bacon with added water’. So why isn’t everyone happy about this?

Don’t worry if this all sounds a bit familiar. Back in January we tested bacon for added water and found some huge variations, from 3% to 13%, depending on what you buy.

And at the moment bacon can contain up to 10% before it’s described as ‘with added water’.

We’ve been arguing for clearer labelling on a range of issues, from country of origin to nutritional labelling, with mixed results. So surely clarification of the rules on bacon is a good thing so that people know what they’re buying?

Not everyone’s happy with new rules

Well, the British Retail Consortium isn’t impressed. Quoted in the Daily Mail, it said that the water is needed to achieve the right ‘succulence, taste and texture’. It added: ‘There are early concerns that reducing the water could change the flavour quite substantially.’

That’s a great point if we’re talking about reducing the water, but we’re not. We’re talking about changing the labelling. Well, according to the Mail’s article, supermarkets and retailers are worried that labels now saying ‘bacon with added water’ will put off consumers.

The British Meat Processors Association get the patronising quote of the day prize: ‘Consumers won’t understand why bacon is suddenly carrying the added water label,’ said a spokesman.

There’s now more bacon in your bacon

This concern for consumers is touching, but in a time of soaring food prices it’s vital to know what we’re paying for, and that’s what clearer labelling does. Take the difference between “juice” and “juice from concentrate”. It allows, at a glance, to distinguish between a premium and value product without inspecting the ingredients list.

So if the EU came calling tomorrow, what would you label differently? There’s a few foods I still struggle with, including the difference between value and normal salmon. Although, our recent premium vs budget research clarified that one for me (premium salmon is prime fillet and fed a diet higher in fish oils). I’m still confused by ‘value’ beer though.


Concerning your comment on ‘value’ beer. If I am correct this generally relates to supermarkets cheapest beer on a pence/litre basis. However, on alcohol content is generally the lowest, 3%, whereas premium beers can be as high as 6%.In other words,it contains twice as much water. (Like the bacon!)

Bit like frozen chickens with injected water to fool us.

YES – all these dodgy practices should be displayed on the packet – after all, they sell it by weight.

Too many nasty advertising con artistes about

The worries about ‘changing the flavour quite substantially’ suggest that we’d all be terrified of the harm that can be done to the taste of our current bacon, But I’m sure the water that is in there is not there to enhance the flavour – flavour enhancing is largerly done by the fat content as far as I remember, water is about providing a great weight for less actual meat. Can’t say I’m worried about the idea of swapping a watery bacon taste for a meaty, bacony flavour. I for one wouldn’t mind if bacon tasted of bacon, not watery ‘essence de bacon’.
What I’d really like to change about current bacon (with or without added water labelling) is that it is nearly impossible to fry becuase the water content is so high that all you get is a bubbly, watery broil, not a nice clean fry.
Anyway, back to your ‘what would you want to label?’ question; I suppose I’d love to know how much of my food is stuffing and fillers and rather than what it says on the name label. I’ve had some ‘fishcakes’ recently and they really should be labelled ‘ the occasional fish-flake containing potato cakes’.

At least food producers call water water. Cosmetic and toiletry manufacturers refer to water as aqua. I’m not sure whether that is meant to sound better or is just plain old deception.

Amanda Paton says:
9 August 2011

The sooner consumers are prepared to pay a bit more for what they eat, the better. Of course it’s in the interest of food processors to sell water at the price of meat.
Get down to the butchers and buy some decent dry cured bacon – what you end up with after cooking means that you only need one or two rashers instead of 4 wafers of rubbish. Overall, it probabaly works out cheaper.