US deal could mean “dirty” poultry

The UK should make food safety rules “stricter, not weaker”, according to three of the country’s leading food policy experts.

In a new briefing paper, professors from the University of Sussex, Cardiff University and City University of London, warned that consumers could be eating “dirty” poultry meat if the UK relaxes rules in order to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

Last month, the US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross suggested that any regulations would need to change for there to be any chance of a deal between the US and UK. According to The Guardian, Ross claimed European regulations governing the safety of imports such as chlorine-washed chicken ignored US scientific research.

A few days before, the environment secretary Michael Gove told the House of Lords subcommittee on energy and the environment that the UK market would not be open to chlorinated chicken from the US. However, concerns remain that the government could backtrack as it looks to plug post-Brexit trade gaps.

Professor Erik Millstone from the University of Sussex and one of the report’s authors said: "The UK should continue to insist on improving hygiene standards in poultry farms, slaughter houses and meat-cutting plants and not allow standards to decline, nor try relying on chemical disinfectants to reduce the harm that filthy meat can cause.”

Millstone, together with Professor Tim Lang from City and Professor Terry Marsden from Cardiff, found US poultry, washed in up to four chemical disinfectants, does not meet EU safety standards. The academics also found the chemicals are used in the USA to wash fruit, vegetables and fish.

The UK and EU approach insists that hygiene standards in the supply chain are sufficiently high that they do not need to be chemically disinfected.

The academics warned that British shoppers would be safer if the UK kept EU standards and called for future controls to be stricter, not weaker.

At Food Matters Live in November, Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright said deaths from food poisoning are 100 times greater in the US than in the UK.

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