Retailers and suppliers are in uproar over a sudden change to EU regulations governing the provision of food information to consumers, which stipulates that bacon with more than 5% added water can no longer be called bacon but must be labelled 'bacon with added water'.
This is the latest controversy to have arisen from this mammoth piece of legislation. The industry is already furious about new rules governing minimum font sizes for labelling. And last year, after an investigation by The Grocer, the EU was forced to backtrack on a rule that would have made it illegal to sell eggs by the dozen.
The UK's bacon market is worth £2bn, and current legislation allows up to 10% water to be added before the name has to be changed.
The European Parliament had originally planned to adopt the same 10% level, but this was reduced to 5% at the last minute as part of a compromise deal between the European Commission, European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
A spokeswoman for the BRC said "very little" of the bacon sold in the UK currently contained less than 5% added water, and a certain amount was necessary to achieve the right succulence, taste and texture.
The BRC was currently in the process of talking to its members about the potential implications of the new limit, she said. "There are certainly early concerns that this could change the flavour quite substantially."
Clare Cheney of the Provision Trade Federation said being able to call it 'bacon' rather than 'bacon with added water' was important to ensure consumer confidence in the product. And she warned that producers would find it difficult to change production methods to consistently hit an added-water level of no more than 5%.
"It would also be very expensive and the retail price would have to rise," she said.
The British Meat Processors' Association said manufacturers needed to add water to dissolve curing salts. "The concern is that consumers won't understand why bacon's suddenly carrying the added-water label," said a spokeswoman.
An EU source denied the process had been undemocratic, claiming there had been extensive consultation over the regulations.
The European Council is due to adopt the new 5% added water level on bacon in the autumn, with the new rules coming into force in 2015.