Pressure on MPs to uphold UK food standards rises

Two-thirds of public want imported meat and dairy to meet equivalent UK standards. Around one in four (26%) said the UK should not import any meat and dairy. Just 3% said the quality of imported meat didn’t matter to them.

In the Yonder poll of 2,095 people, commissioned by Eating Better, the Food Ethics Council and Hubbub, 77% aid the government should assess future trade deals for their impact on human health and the environment.

Earlier this week food, farming and environment campaigners received news that the Trade and Agriculture Commission would be made permanent with farmers placed “at the heart” of future trade deals.

The commission will examine the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of any trade deals before they are signed. MPs will then be able to assess the group’s recommendations before any deals are ratified.

However, The Guardian reported that this would not mean an end to fears over chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef arriving from the US.

Last month, Footprint surveyed 25 leading foodservice and hospitality operators. Of the 13 that responded none said they would accept meat reared to lower standards than the UK. Five said they would not buy US meat even if it were reared to equivalent production standards, while five would consider it.

Supermarkets, which have to label the origin of the meat they sell, have been quick to distance themselves from the suggestion they would be prepared to source US meat under a future trade deal. But there is growing recognition now that foodservice, where there are no such origin labelling requirements, is the most likely route to market for US meat producers looking to find an outlet for their products.

Simon Billing, executive director of Eating Better noted a “seismic shift” in public attitudes. “People really care about where their meat comes from and under what conditions it’s produced,” he said.

Meanwhile, the agriculture bill continues to “ping-pong” between the Houses of Lords and Commons, with peers voting to ensure trade deals meet animal welfare and food safety rules – so-called amendment 16B of the bill.

Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council said MPs should listen to the UK public. “Our survey shows that an overwhelming majority want the government to ensure food imports are of high quality. We urge MPs to keep Amendment 16B in the agriculture bill and to enshrine good food standards in legislation. This is a golden opportunity to make changes to our legislation that will set the path for UK food and farming for decades to come.”

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