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The UK Government is allegedly open to the possibility of allowing imports of US chlorinated chicken, in order to secure a post-Brexit trade deal between the two countries.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly willing to consider the import of certain US farm products, including chlorine-dipped chicken and eggs and hormone-treated beef and pork, as part of a planned trade deal with the US.
The deal may allow certain US products that are currently banned from sale into the UK, with possible tariffs in place to protect UK farmers and producers who operate at higher welfare standards.
On Thursday, Johnson’s spokesman told the Daily Telegraph: “The UK will decide how we set and maintain our own standards and regulations, and we have been clear that we will not compromise on our high standards of food safety and animal welfare.
“The UK’s food regulators will continue to provide independent advice to ensure that all food imports comply with those high safety standards,” he said.
Earlier this year, Theresa Villiers, then environment secretary, told BBC Countryfile: “We will not be importing chlorinated chicken. We will not be importing hormone-treated beef,” commenting that the UK would continue to apply the EU ban to such products.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) is lobbying the government to ensure that food imported from countries such as the US to a lower welfare standard should not be allowed.
The NFU launched a petition calling for the ban on cheaply produced, low-quality food imports on post-Brexit trade deals, which now has over 250,000 signatures.
The petition commented: “Farming throughout the UK has high standards of safety and welfare with an ambition to be net zero in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
“There are very strict controls on farming methods allowed in the UK and I expect the same of all food which is imported here so the food I eat is as safe, traceable and produced to high welfare and environmental standards.
“Before the UK begins to negotiate trade deals with countries around the world, I call on the UK government to put into law rules that prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here.”
In an open letter to Boris Johnson, TV chef Jamie Oliver said: “I write this letter because I believe you’re about to seriously undermine public health and unpick the delicate patchwork quilt of farmers and food producers who are the backbone of this country…
“What’s more, we’ll be threatening the future of our farmers and food producers who, despite extraordinary challenges, have worked so hard to keep us fed throughout the Covid-19 crisis…”.
He continued: “Of course we want trade, but not at any cost. Having standards – in law – will actually strengthen your hand in negotiations.”
Oliver also took to social media with a plea to sign the NFU petition, claiming that such trade deals could be “traumatic” to the UK’s farming industry.
A Defra spokesperson said: “We have been clear that in all of our trade negotiations – including with the US in our first round of negotiations – that we will not undermine our high domestic environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards by ensuring in any agreement British farmers are always able to compete.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020