“Top Tory MEP Daniel Hannan tells people to stop moaning about Chlorinated Chicken”
That’s one of the most deeply disturbing headlines I’ve come across for a long time but it doesn’t surprise me that in amongst all the arguments surrounding Brexit, the prospect of chlorinated chicken imports from the USA are hitting the headlines.
The Westminster Minister responsible for food is Michael Gove and he was quick to tell everyone that he wouldn’t allow imports of chlorinated chicken into the UK as part of any trade deal with the USA. On the radio he was asked the question “Chlorinated Chicken – Yes or No?” and the answer a very straightforward No. So, you might think that would be the end of it.
However, as the headline suggests there is disagreement amongst the Westminster Government about whether or not to allow chlorinated chicken imports, with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox saying that it would be a necessary part of any trade deal with the USA.
So, why has it become such an emotive issue which is causing Cabinet Ministers to fall out at this early stage of the Brexit negotiations?
There are two points which need to be made …
USA farmers are allowed to dip or wash chicken carcasses in water containing chlorine dioxide in order to kill potentially harmful organisms such as E coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella on the surface of the meat. Therefore, during the rearing of the chickens, farmers are not controlling any such harmful bacteria and simply wash away the bugs with chlorine.
This allows USA farmers to rear their poultry to lower hygiene standards than is allowed in the UK and therefore the chicken on the American supermarket shelf is approximately 20% cheaper than here in Britain.
But the chlorinated chicken issue is only the tip of the iceberg with the bigger problems of hormone implanted beef and genetically modified (GM) food ready to follow it across the Atlantic and onto supermarket shelves.
The crux of the matter is that Scotland has worked very hard on an image of wholesome, naturally produced food which is now the envy of the rest of the world and for our farmers to have to compete with cheap imports of questionable quality is simply not acceptable.
In the USA and Scotland we have production methods as different as chalk and cheese and if we allow imports of chlorinated chicken, then we throw away everything we have worked for in order to produce high quality food.
The final point is that if we allow these imports of chlorinated chicken, hormone implanted beef and GM products, the rest of Europe will see that as a down-grade of our standards and after Brexit may not want to take any of our UK produced food, regardless of our current high welfare status. They may also look at the UK as a “back door” to letting USA farmers into the EU.
So hopefully, having read all of the above, you can probably see why the issues are much wider than simply allowing a bit of American chicken meat washed in chlorine water into the UK.
The high welfare and food safety standards that are in place across Scotland were put there by health experts as a means of protecting our health and while they make what we eat a bit more expensive than some other countries, I am happy to pay that bit extra knowing that Scottish farmers are doing their very best to produce the food that goes on my plate.
I’m not “moaning about chlorinated chicken” … I’m furious that anyone in the UK Government should even think about allowing such imports into the UK!