Holyrood is considering offering meat to MSPs which is free of chemicals that cause bowel cancer

Parliament bosses are investigating the availability of nitrite-free products such as bacon, after a Herald on Sunday campaign exposed the use of this processed meat in schools.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: “I really welcome the Scottish Parliament taking these steps. This is a real opportunity for Holyrood to lead the way and become nitrite-free.”

A ground-breaking World Health Organisation report placed processed meat, which includes bacon, ham, pepperoni and chorizo, in the same carcinogenic category as asbestos and tobacco.

The danger comes when nitrites in meat are heated and produce nitrosamines, a process that increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

Governments across the world have faced calls to clamp down on nitro-meat, but politicians have been slow to respond.

This newspaper revealed that a majority of councils in Scotland offer these products to pupils in schools, a practice that also occurs in hospitals.

Ministers responded by announcing a statutory limit on the amount of processed meat that primary and secondary pupils can eat in the school week.

Education Secretary John Swinney said recently: “We have set maximum limits for consumption of red processed meat which is linked to an increased risk of cancer. This will also reduce exposure to harmful nitrites.”

Pressure has also been put on the Parliament’s governing corporate body to offer healthy food to the MSPs and staff who work in the £400 million-plus building.

The Holyrood canteen serves cooked breakfasts and offers cured meats to those who visit and work there.

Lennon, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, asked Holyrood about nitrite-free products and any plans to use them.

SNP MSP Sandra White, speaking on behalf of the governing body, responded:

“We are currently investigating the availability and cost of nitrite-free preserved/cured products, such as bacon. We would be happy to discuss the outcome of our findings with the member in due course.”

Denis Lynn, whose Finnebrogue firm supplies major supermarkets with nitrite-free bacon and ham, said earlier this year that Scotland has a “massive opportunity” to lead the way in shunning traditional processed meat.

He said at the time: “I would not be feeding my kids ham or bacon with nitrites in it. If you look at the WHO report, the one thing that is really clear is it says children are at most risk because of their body weight, and the amount of ham and hot dogs that they are eating. They are at more risk than adults. I don’t think it is a good idea at all.”

Lennon added: “Scottish Labour fully accepts the cancer risks associated with processed meats containing nitrites and we are pushing the Scottish Government to support food producers towards using alternatives to nitrites.”