Labour hits back over Tory chlorinated chicken claims on Marr

A scene from the Andrew Marr Show
Steve Topple

The Andrew Marr Show has once again caused controversy over Brexit. As The Canary reported, during the programme on Sunday 23 February, environment secretary George Eustice refused to rule out chlorinated chicken coming to the UK from the US. But Labour has already hit back.

Flip-flopping?

Chlorinated chicken is controversial. As The Canary previously reported, it’s not so much the process that’s contentious, but that it can lead to lower hygiene standards in slaughterhouses. The government’s position has repeatedly flip-flopped, depending on which minister is in charge.

So, Marr brought up the issue. He quoted Eustice’s predecessor, Theresa Villiers. As FarmingUK reported in January, she told BBC Countryfile that:

We will not be importing chlorinated-chicken. We will not be importing hormone-treated beef. Both of those are illegal under EU law, which we are importing into our domestic system.

The BBC host, therefore, probed the new environment secretary about whether this was still the case. The Tory minister at first said that Villiers’ statement was “correct”.

But when pushed further, Eustice told Marr:

There’s room for a sensible discussion, here, because we also use lactic acids… notably on beef. We don’t use it on poultry.

Marr said:

So there’s a compromise to be done?

To which Eustice replied:

There’s a discussion to be had, yeah.

Previously, the EU did not allow the use of lactic acid on beef. Then it changed the rules in 2012. But the UK government continued to pressure it to allow the wash to be used on poultry. To date, the EU has not changed its mind.

Labour weighs in

Following Eustice’s appearance on Marr, Labour was straight out of the blocks. Its shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said in a press release:

British farmers pride themselves on high levels of animal welfare and environmental protections. So why won’t Ministers put into law a ban on any post-Brexit trade deal food imports from the US that are produced to lower welfare and environmental standards?

Chlorinated chicken being sold in Britain is a genuine risk, unless this backdoor to lower standard US goods imports is closed and a ban is put into law. It’s not just Labour saying this, there is a chorus of voices from the NFU to the RSPCA and who all want legal guarantees British farm standards won’t be undercut.

The thin end of a trade deal wedge?

So far, the government has not commented on Eustice’s claims.

Labour is correct that allowing chlorinated chicken into the UK is a risk to standards. But the Tories’ unclear position sums-up wider concerns about a US trade deal. With the NHS still not off the table, food standards may well end up being the thin end of the wedge.

Featured image via BBC iPlayer

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  • Show Comments
    1. Allow me to quote George Eustice when he had resigned from May’s govt as a Minister in DEFRA (early March 2019):
      The US should join the back of a queue for a post-Brexit trade deal if it thinks its “woefully inadequate” and “backward” animal welfare and food safety standards will be accepted in Britain, the former farming minister George Eustice has said. Eustice, a leading Brexit supporter who resigned from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last week, said signing any deal that allowed a reduction in food standards would be a mistake, as it could “give free trade a bad name”

      Says one thing as a backbencher, says another in Johnson’s cabinet. Whodathunkit?

    2. Here’s the thing. If you suspect that chicken imported from the USA will be washed in chlorine and you would rather not eat that, then if the chicken you’re buying in your supermarket says “ Origin USA”, don’t buy it.
      Blimey, even the Daily Mash gets that.

    3. Not just the chlorine treatment of chicken, but the fact that US chicken pumped with antibiotics/steroids will also make its way onto the dinner tables here. Just the tip of the iceberg. GM crops, round-up treated corn, GM farmed fish, etc will be brought in as well. And how much of this would be labelled?

    4. “If you don’t like it then you can just choose not to buy it” rather (deliberately?) misses the point of just how far vested interests go to ensure that the consumer doesn’t get the information needed to make a choice. The one thing I have in common with Rees-Mogg is that I wouldn’t worry much myself about GMO on my plate, but I do accept that others have the right to avoid it should they wish. Read of the successful attempts by the likes of Monsanto to obfuscate, amend and generally water down any legislation that might allow people to “irrationally” choose not to buy their products.

      While the European mindset on public safety takes the approach that regulation should ensure that products be demonstrably harmless, the US approach is more “go right ahead because people can always sue (if they’re still alive and have sufficient resources to take on the legal machine they’ll be up against).”

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