Scientists and politicians are calling for nitrites to be removed from processed meats like bacon.
Cancer specialists and politicians who are backing the campaign to take out chemicals, say nitrite-free alternatives are safer.
Nitrites, which are approved, are used to help preserve cured meat and add flavour. Specialists are also calling on the government to launch a public awareness campaign, to raise awareness of the health risks of nitrites.
There is a ‘consensus of scientific opinion’ that, when cooked, nitrites produce nitrosamines – chemicals which can cause cancer.
The coalition is led by Professor Chris Elliott, the food scientist who ran the government’s investigation into the horse meat scandal, and Dr Aseem Malhotra, an NHS cardiologist.
Dr Malhotra said the meat industry ‘must act fast, (and) act now.’
Processed meat is modified to extend its shelf life and the main methods are smoking, curing, and adding salt or preservatives.
The British Meat Processors Association said nitrites help to hinder microbial growth and protect against botulism.
Processed meat includes bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky and ham as well as canned meat and meat-based sauces.
The Guardian has previously reported that if no one ate processed or red meat in Britain, there would be 8,800 fewer cases of cancer.
And a study has found that women who consumed high levels of processed meat had a nine per cent increased risk of the cancer compared with those who ate little of it.