Farmers seek legal reassurances after George Eustice fails to rule out chlorinated chicken imports

Groups lobbying on behalf of the poultry industry say they are seeking assurances from government that chlorinated chicken will not form part of any trade deal with the US, after George Eustice stoked fears over the controversial practice by failing to explicitly rule it out.

Speaking on the Sophy Ridge show on Sky and the Andrew Marr show on the BBC over the weekend, the newly appointed Defra secretary of state spoke with more caution than his two predecessors Theresa Villiers and Michael Gove, both of whom clearly said chlorinated chicken would never be allowed to be imported, because it was part of a wider system of poultry production involving higher stocking densities that are illegal in the UK or EU.

Eustice said that although there were no plans to change the rules around chlorinated chicken, technology was moving fast and it was now more common for US producers to use lactic washes. “There is room for sensible discussion,” as part of a trade deal on this, he said.

But the British Poultry Council said there was no room for discussion on this point and importing cheaper poultry would undermine the UK’s ability to ‘control how we feed ourselves’. BPC chief executive, Richard Griffiths, said: “British poultry producers don’t dip their chicken carcase in chemicals as we do not ‘clean up at the end’ or take any short-cuts when it comes to producing food.

“Post-Brexit trade deals must respect that. British farmers have worked incredibly hard to build a food system that ensures high standards of production from farm to fork.

It’s Government’s duty to ensure that production standards of imported food meet British standards as a condition of entry. If food produced to lower standards is allowed to enter the British market, it will create a two-tier food system, in which only the affluent can afford to eat British food grown to British standards. This is unacceptable.

“Losing control of how we feed ourselves as a nation would undermine British food producers at a time when we should be looking to use Brexit as an opportunity to take matters of food security, nutrition, and sustainability into our own hands.”

Farming groups such as the NFU are seeking assurances that the government will write into law protections that ensure British food standards are not undermined by cheap imports.

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