Food fight: doubts grow over post-Brexit standards

Soil Association raises concerns over chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef

  • Britain urged to reject ‘backward’ US food safety standards
  • Opinion: If US insists on chlorinated chicken, it can forget a trade deal

Chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef are already infecting the debate over a post-Brexit trade deal, with one of the US’s most senior diplomats dismissing the European Union’s “museum of agriculture” approach to food safety.

The US ambassador, Woody Johnson, claimed fears over US food standards leading to lower quality food were “myths” and part of a “smear campaign” to cast American farming in the worst possible light.

The environment secretary, Michael Gove, has pledged that food standards will be the same if not better after the UK leaves the EU, but campaigners are concerned that welfare and environmental protections could be jettisoned in the rush to strike a US trade deal.

On Wednesday, the leading Brexit supporter George Eustice, who resigned from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last week, wrote in the Guardian that the UK should not countenance signing any deal that would reduce food standards as it could “give free trade a bad name”. He called US agriculture “quite backward”.

Chlorinated chicken and the use of hormones in animals and animal feed, along with the use of pesticides and food colourants, remain among the top concerns of the Soil Association, which will launch an updated food risk list for US-UK trade talks later this week.

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