Korean researchers have found that plasma-treated water could be an effective replacement for nitrates for curing ham, bacon and other meats.
If so it would remove a risk of cancer from the food industry.
Nitrates have long been considered risky because they can convert to nitrosamines when they mingle with saliva, and nitrosamines are known to cause cancer.
But nitrates remain as an agent in brine for curing ham, bacon and similar meats because they are effective in controlling dangerous food-poisoning bacteria.
When compared with chemical brining, plasma-treated water improved redness, maintained low residual nitrite content and total bacterial counts, and no genotoxicity was found in the final product, the Korean research team reports.
The research paper is available online in the journal Plasma Processes and Polymers.