Sustain alliance members have expressed their alarm at Trade Secretary Liam Fox's dismissal of concerns about chlorine-dipped chicken as a "detail" of new trade deals with the US.
The alliance members have written to Liam Fox and Brexit Secretary David Davis, urging them to uphold high food standards in the UK's new Trade Bill and the EU Withdrawal (Repeal) Bill. The text of the letter, and the list of signatories, are shown below, submitted 24 August 2017.
Dear Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox,
and Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis,
We are concerned to hear that Dr Fox may consider the UK accepting chlorine-dipped chicken in order to win a new trade deal with America, and that he considers such issues as “detail”. In fact, chlorine-dipped chicken is an emblem of many differences between the way the US and the UK approach food safety and quality standards.
Winning trade deals is of course important for the economy, but changing food standards without appropriate consideration and agreement is unacceptable. As is allowing any move that might limit the UK’s ability to set environmental, social or ethical standards for our food, to meet our national priorities. The Government does not have the mandate to do so. We also fear that our UK trade negotiators are unlikely to have the qualifications to decide such important food standards on our behalf, which may impact on our well-being and the health of our children.
Such decisions must be put before British people, health specialists, scientific scrutiny and our elected representatives, for proper examination. These are the kinds of decisions that no-one who cares about the food they eat will accept being decided behind closed doors. We fully expect the UK’s forthcoming Trade Bill to make provision for transparency in negotiations and scientific and parliamentary scrutiny of new trade agreements.
Illustratively, our concerns about US food standards relate to (but are not limited to) meat hygiene; farm antibiotic use; irradiated meat; ‘pink slime’ beef production; traceability; animal welfare; pesticides; the prevalence of high fructose corn syrup in US processed foods; colourings and additives; baby food standards; food labelling, and a generally more litigious culture in the US food industry that is vocally resistant to public and scientific scrutiny.
These are not details. Please do not force US food standards on us. During the forthcoming Parliamentary session, please champion transparency, and the proper role of both scientific and parliamentary scrutiny, in both the Trade Bill and the EU (Withdrawal) Bill (Repeal Bill). Our organisations – as do very many others with whom we cooperate – consider the Repeal Bill must:
Through the Repeal Bill process, the Government must also commit to continued promotion of important strategies and plans on which the resilience of our food system depends, and policies and resources to implement them effectively, such as (but not limited to) strategies to protect pollinators, the strategy to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics in farming, and the strategy for protecting and improving soil. Further, these must not be undermined by the provisions of future trade deals.
We would welcome a response to this letter, responding to the points made and reassuring our organisations and the millions of citizens we and our members serve, that you will be a champion of better food standards, not an agent of our food standards being watered down, removed or rendered ineffective by international trade deals.
Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive, Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming
With the support of:
The Sustain alliance is a registered charity (number 1018643) and a company limited by guarantee, which is registered in England and Wales (number 02673194). Registered office: Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4LT
CREDIT: Photograph of caged hens by Sandeep Subba
Brexit: We stand at a cross-roads. When the UK leaves the European Union, will our leaders uphold good standards for our food, farming, fishing and trade deals? And will they agree a sensible deal with the EU? We need to make sure that they do!
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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.