Bakers of mince pies, Christmas puddings and other traditional British treats have been warned they might be facing a lard-free Christmas this year. Supermarkets said stocks of the shortening, made from rendered pig fat, were running low due to surging demand from pork-loving new members of the European Union. Jamie Sitzia, spokeswoman for the Somerfield supermarket chain, said this week the admission of 10 new EU countries in May had been followed by "unprecedented demand from Eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary for the cheapest cuts of pork to meet their demand for sausages, salamis and pies."

The countries are buying EU-bred pork to avoid tariffs on imports from outside the union. The result, Sitzia said, was "a serious shortfall in lard production throughout the European Union."

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's, another large supermarket chain, said the company had seen a reduced supply of lard in stores and was advising customers to switch to butter or margarine where possible.