Monday 13 January 2020 4:09 am

DEBATE: Is the government being short-sighted in maintaining the ban on chlorinated chicken?

Victoria Hewson is head of regulatory affairs at the IEA.
Sarah Hendry
Sarah Hendry is director general of the Country Land and Business Association.

Is the government being short-sighted in maintaining the ban on chlorinated chicken?

Victoria Hewson, head of regulatory affairs at the IEA, says YES,

Promising to keep EU rules banning hormone-reared beef and chicken that has had pathogen reduction treatment (anti-microbial rinses, some of which contain low levels of a chlorine solution) is short-sighted and irrational.

WTO rules require food regulations to be non-discriminatory, based on sound science. So why has the environment secretary promised to retain the bans, instead of reviewing their necessity?

The EU’s scientific advisers have already found that there are no grounds for banning US chicken, but pandering to health scares and protectionism is politically expedient and satisfies vested interests who benefit from restrictions on imports.

The UK government may think that holding a firm line now improves our negotiating position with the US, as we can concede later in return for something we want. But the risk is that public hostility grows and vested interests are emboldened, making the concession politically impossible and depriving consumers of the choice to buy American meat if they want to.

Sarah Hendry, director general of the Country Land and Business Association, says NO.

The issue with chlorinated chicken is not the chlorine itself; after all, the element can be found already in many foods we eat on a daily basis. The concern is that it can be used to mask poor hygiene and animal welfare practices that we know exist elsewhere in the world.

Another myth is that the UK only has high farming standards because of our membership of the EU. In fact, the UK regularly led the charge for higher standards within Europe. We can and should be proud of the quality of British food and the care our farmers take in producing it.

The UK has nothing to fear from having an independent trade policy so long as the government keeps its word to protect our farmers. Imported food produced to low ethical and environmental standards must never be allowed to undercut homegrown produce.

Our high standards should not just be protected — they should be exported as an example of world-leading best practice.

Main image credit: Getty

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