Scientists have suggested that vegetable juice powder could provide a natural source of nitrate to serve as a curing agent for pork and still be classified as a natural source.
Consumers' enthusiasm for natural and organic food products extends to cured pork products such as hams, bacon and frankfurters. But products can't be labelled as natural or organic if they contain preservatives.
That means two traditional curing agents for pork - nitrite and nitrate - aren't allowed in natural and organic versions.
Iowa State University researcher Joe Sebranek said that taking a couple of natural antimicrobial ingredients - vinegar with lactate and vinegar with lemon powder - and incorporating them into the naturally cured pork products works.
The bacterial pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes in the naturally cured pork products were inhibited, though still not to an equivalent level as in conventionally cured pork products.
"With natural and organic products you're limited to ingredients that qualify as natural or organic, respectively.If you use something that is traditionally used as a preservative, that's not permitted in a natural product," said Sebranek.
"With a naturally fermented vinegar product, you have a mixture of organic acids.
It's not typically used as a preservative but it provides some of the organic acids that are recognized antimicrobials. There's a mixture in that kind of a product that essentially provides a preservative effect," he added.